She’s an incorrigible gambler, an incessant drinker, a perpetual presence in local parties, a lover of fine clothes and gossips. She sounds like a typical college girl of the 21st century, except that she lived almost exactly one thousand years ago. Yes, it is true that history repeats itself and the same kind of women come back to haunt the world in regular cycles.
Her gambling was almost a legend, which was immortalized in her poems. In those days in the vast plain of Asia, not yet ravaged by the invading army of Mongolians, gambling was not considered a sin; ruining one’s own finances was not immoral. Modern virtues were not observed then and there, no matter how much we like to view our ancestors through our own ethical lens.
When the Jurchen Jin invaded and occupied her hometown, she fled south and lost her properties, belongings, books, and her beloved husband. Thank goodness she enjoyed herself before this point. Otherwise she would have regretted.
She became the target of an unscrupulous man who won her heart. When she realized her mistake, it was too late and she’s already married. She brought her husband to court, accusing him of cheating his way to gain her affection while his true purpose was possessing the rare books and the remaining properties she brought south with her. It’s true that her new husband had been selling those rare books without her knowledge in exchange for money. The court was thrown into a dilemma. According to the local law at the time, her accusations would result in an annulment of the marriage, like what Rachael and Ross tried to do in “Friends”. However it was against the law for a woman to sue her husband. As a woman of spirit and courage, also as a true gambler, she’s undaunted and bravely went ahead with her lawsuit. The result was that the marriage was annulled accordingly, she regained her rare books, and the court sentenced her to six years of imprisonment. Her husband was not penalized in anyway, except he ceased to be her husband and couldn’t have access to the rare books anymore.
Several months later, the judge, who was an old friend of her family, managed to help her regain her freedom. The series of family and personal tragedies threw her into an emotional turmoil so severe that she couldn’t live without expressing herself in her poems. Before this point, she’s a mediocre poet and her fun loving poems are mostly cliche word plays; after this point, she became truly brilliant.
She is Li Qingzhao. I think about her whenever I read Edna St. Vincent Millay. Something weirdly similar. Can I say “uninhibited”? “I shall not mock my truth”–both of their poems scream out so loudly that it is deafening.
This is non-fiction. All the information in this post is made as accurate as possible according to historical records.