Poems of Li Ye
Seeing Yan Bojun Off to Shan County
This river runs beyond the Gates of Heaven.
Your lone boat again goes to the West.
Our feelings of parting are filled with virtue.
There is nowhere that you cannot flourish.
I dreamed that in the Gardens of Wu
You travelled until you came to Shan Creek.
When you return, we will visit again.
Don't get lost in Heaven like Ruan Zhao.
This is supposed to be a poem that shows Li Ye is sleeping with Yan Bojun. Hmmm. Fang1cao3 (芳草) or "esteemed virtue" is what she attributes to their feelings of parting. Xiang1fang3 (相访) is "pay each other a visit" and not "fall into hot sweaty embraces." To me, she could be nudging him away with "esteemed virtue" when he would prefer the warm embraces. I'm having trouble convincing myself Li Ye is sleeping with any of these men in her poems. Let's look at all the evidence I have come up with so far. Here, from other scholars' accusations, are the usual suspects:
Exhibit A: Liu Changqing (or Zhangqing). At a literary gathering, the older poet Liu is suffering from a hernia. Li Ye is reading a poem. She changes the tones on "mountain air" so that a line becomes "How do you like this hernia?" A pun. Neo-Confucians appear to have assumed that she was fondling his hernia as she said it. Let's go with a simple pun. Verdict: Liu is probably not a sexual partner of Li Ye.
Exhibit B: Jiao Ran. In a poem attributed to Jiao Ran but which he did not include in his own collected works, one can read into it that Li Ye made a literary or even a physical pass at Jiao Ran. But no one is willing to say the poem is really his. Verdict: Not a sexual partner.
Exhibit C: Lu Yu. The closest he gets is her "thanking guest" poem where she apologises for not being able to see him. Unless she is actually apologising to the geese. Or to him through the geese. I like this last option because it is intelligent and subtle which reflects well on Li Ye. Verdict: Not a sexual partner.
Exhibit D: Zhu Fang. Mentioned in a title of one of her poems. Or not. Because the title could also mean "red blossoms" and not his name. Also, he was a recluse and would have to take administrative leave and be unreclusive to sleep with her. Also, this poem has another title in another scroll which is more or less, "Climbing a Mountain to Look Longingly for Yan Who Does Not Come." The Neo-Confucians are working overtime here. But they can't have it both ways. Unless they are accusing her of a sexual love triangle. Maybe down at the local yamen during business hours? Verdict: Not a sexual partner.
Exhibit E: Yan Shihe (courtesy name, Bojun). He carries Li Ye's letter to their friend Han in Jiangxi. He gets this send-off above. And she writes a poem on receiving a letter from him. That is the next poem in these translations and unless it's a real hotty ... well, we'll see. Verdict: Pending.
I'm not denying Li Ye an active sexual life here. People need human intimacy in order to survive in this lower realm. I'd be dead by now without it. But I like to see justice done. And the current Chinese scholars and their judgmental predecessors are doing Li Ye an injustice. Maybe, being intelligent, she was also discreet. I would think so.