Poems of Yu Xuanji
Lament on the Death of a Recent Exam Graduate, in two verses
The immortals among us never stay for long.
This one, in a moment, saw all of his autumns.
Beneath a shroud, a faith still warm and fragrant.
In this cage, a voice fallen not quite silent.
Closed blossoms with morning's dew -- sad faces.
Willows in the evening wind -- sad brows.
Red-pink clouds all disappear without a reason why.
Like Pan Yue, he passionately wanted to grow old.
A branch of laurel will give us some graceful smoke.
This river bank of peach trees gives us a pink rain.
But drunk beside my wine jar, I stare into beyond.
Ancient day or modern, all laments are the same song.
I believe this poem is about the death of another man named Li who in a later (scroll-wise) poem is compared to Pan Yue. He seems to be an admirer who Yu Xuanji gently, but teasingly, declines. If you come back to this poem after reading that one, you will see her regrets here, especially in the second verse, for teasing him. She continues to tease him a little in the first verse, comparing him first to a duck and then to a parrot. But trying to work all that in leads to paragraphs. The first poem may have been public, the second, private. The heart of her intentions is in the translation here.
Daoist nuns could live in a convent or on their own, in reclusion or in the midst of life. A Tang Daoist master said that you could be a daoshi and still have a business and a family. I can't tell whether Yu Xuanji ever leaves the convent, perhaps Chang'an's Zhide convent, to live in the city. Perhaps she does. But although she could associate, even intimately, with men due to her status and its freedoms, I don't think she does. I think she has a piety that prevents it. Some people are more than we can imagine because our imaginations are bounded by our small-mindedness. To understand them, you must first "get bigger" as Zhuangzi tells us in his first chapter.