Visiting the South Tower of Lofty-Truth Temple,
I view the newly inscribed names of Imperial Graduates
Cloudy summits fill my eyes this fine spring day,
I catch every silver stroke beneath my fingertips.
How I hate this silk dress which conceals my poetry,
I raise my head in hopeless envy of the names that are listed.
– Yu XuanJi
Translation by Dean Marais
About Yu Xuanji:
Yu XuanJi wrote her first poem at 6 years old. When she was older, being exceptionally beautiful, she was sold as a concubine to an official who fell in love with her. However, his jealous wife forced him to throw her out. With no home or income she had to turn to prostitution in Chang’An. She met many of the poets of her day there, and ended up at a taoist temple where she continued to write poems. The story goes that she was falsely accused of murder, and though many of her poet friends pleaded for her life, she was executed in Chang’An at 26 years of age.