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  • Friday, November 03, 2006

    Xue Tao & the River Viewing Park

    Xue Tao (781? - 832 AD) is a famous poet of the Tang dynasty of China. It is said that she wrote over 500 poems, but only 92 have survived until today. Her poetry has been held in high esteem since the time in which it was written. She also created a small, delicate and scarlet poem-tablet which is famous in Chinese paper-making history. And, her calligraphy works were collected by the imperial court of North Song dynasty as an art treasurer. She led a frustrated life and the Chinese people have shown much sympathy for her.

    Wangjiang Park, or River Viewing Park, is one of the famous scenic spots of Chengdu. The park with its buildings and bamboo gardens commemorates Xue Tao. Bamboo was her favorite plant. People have planted ove 140 varieties of bamboo in the park which are labeled for the convenience of visitors. Although the park area was not her home, the buildings in the park commemorate her life.

    After the death of her father who was a lower officer of the western Sichuan government, at fifteen she had to become a poem-singer of the local government to earn a living for her family. She was well known for her poetic talent. Having been exiled by the governor of the local governement, she was forgiven by presenting some touching poems. After some 11-12 years of service as a poet-singer, she again became a common person and an independent poet.

    Officers of the local government and some famous poets paid attention to her poetic talents. They wrote poems to her; and she wrote responses. It is said that she was recommended to the king, as a Collator, but he did not approve it because this post was never conferred on a woman in the Tang dynasty. Hence, people have called her Collatrix since then. A year after her death, the supreme governor of the Western Sichuan Region wrote an epitaph especially for her tomb. It was a great honor that few poets enjoyed and represented the respect of the people for this talented poetess. One of her poems:


    White and full, she is as a round fan of silk;
    Slim and slender, she is like a hook of silver.
    Which is better, the full or the slim?
    I really wonder, who on earth can tell?

    PICTURES ABOVE: Statue of Xue Tao, Example of the Bamboo in Wangjiang Park,
    Tower of Magnificence or River-Viewing Tower, and View of the River from the Tower.

    [NOTE: Above based on material in Poetess Xue Tao and Park of River Viewing Tower by Zhang Zhengze and Ji Guoping, 1995]

    For more information on Xue Tao and Wangjiang Park see: Xue Tao on Other Women’s Voices – Translations of Women’s Writing Before 1700; The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry Web Companion hosted by Whittier College; ColorQ World – Xue Tao – celebrated poet and inventor; Wangjiang Tower Park on TravelChinaGuide.com; The Mountain Songs; and Access My Library – Brocade River Poems: Selected Works of the Tang Dynasty Courtesan Xue Tao


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