Poems of Li Ye
- 湖上卧病喜陆鸿渐至 - Lakeside, Unwell, But Happy as Geese Gradually Arrive
- 寄校书七兄 - Sending the Proofreader Seven Friends
- 寄朱放 - Sending Red Blossoms
- 送韩揆之江西 - For Minister Han of Jiangxi
- 道意寄崔侍郎 - Daoist Thoughts Sent to Minister Cui
- 从萧叔子听弹琴赋得三峡流泉歌 - On Hearing Brother-in-Law Xiao play the Lute, a Poetic Essay on the Three Gorges' Fountain Song
- 相思怨 - I Resent Missing You
- 感兴 - What I'm Feeling
- 恩命追入留别广陵故人 - By Your Gracious Command, a Parting Poem to be Engraved on the Tomb of Your Wife
- 八至 - Arrivals
- 送阎二十六赴剡县 - Seeing Yan Bojun Off to Shan County
- 得阎伯钧书 - On Yan Bojun's Manuscript
- 结素鱼贻友人 - Tying Silk Fish for Friends
- 偶居 - Chance Respite
- 明月夜留别 - Parting Gift on a Moonlit Night
- 春闺怨 - Spring Boudoir Complaint
We, of course, do not know very much about Li Ye. And most of what we know comes from secondary or worse sources. She lived from some time in the latter part of Xuanzong's reign (712-756) until early in Dezong's (780-805). As an adult, she lived in Wuxing (now Huzhou, Zhejiang). She was a respected Daoist nun and moved in literary circles. Being a Daoist nun was a social option for women of the time and they were then exempt from taxes and allowed personal wealth and a degree of personal freedom.
A biographical dictionary in English by Chinese authors claims that she was a "coquette" and associates her with "debauchery." But their book has already been shown to be a bit lax in historical rigor. It was common for these Daoist nuns to associate with men in an intellectual and social way that resembled the ways of 18th century Parisian women who were famous for their salons. Such women are generally smarter than most men. Confucians did not approve of this (the salons, at least, and perhaps the intelligence, too.) Neo-Confucians, who came later, pretty much universally branded any such independent women as wild and easy sluts. Thanks to them, I am beginning to be uncomfortable with that word even though its original meaning was simply "a maid." It at least reproduces the Neo-Confucian low opinion of women in an unambiguous way. I'll try not to use it again unless I am quoting Laurence Sterne.
Intelligent and witty, Li Ye was eventually called to the court of the Emperor Daizong during the Dali period of 766-779. She described herself as middle-aged (35? 40?) at this time. Li Ye stayed in the palaces for a month, was treated well, and then was allowed to return to her Daoist vocation. There is no primary source evidence during this time or elsewhen (as far as I can tell) of any impropriety on her part. Later, under Emperor Dezong, Li Ye's poems which had been critical of the empire (at some point) were used to condemn her to death. No expression of intelligence in this lower realm of ours has ever gone unpunished.
Poems translated 16 - 22 October 2015