Li Shishi (Song dynasty)

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Li Shishi
Water Margin character
Courtesan
Names
Simplified Chinese 李师师
Traditional Chinese 李師師
Pinyin Lǐ Shīshī
Wade–Giles Li Shih-shih

Li Shishi was a courtesan (角妓 / 角伎[1]) in Kaifeng, the capital of the Song Dynasty,[2] and Emperor Huizong was a regular client of hers.[3] She fled to Zhejiang[4] or Hunan after the Jingkang Incident of the Jin–Song wars occurred in 1127.[5]

In fiction[edit]

In the classical novel Water Margin, Li Shishi encounters the outlaws from Liangshan Marsh on two occasions; on the second, more important encounter, she befriends Yan Qing and agrees to become his sworn older sister. She then promises Yan Qing then she will tell the emperor about the outlaws' plight and desire to be granted amnesty.[6]

Poems about Li Shishi[edit]

Song Dynasty poet Chao Chongzhi described Li Shishi's dancing and singing talents as follows:

Watch her dance to "Nichang Yuyi Qu",[7] listen to her recite / sing "Yushu Houting Hua".[8] (看舞霓裳羽衣曲,聽歌玉樹後庭花)

Southern Song era poet Zhu Dunru (朱敦儒; 1081-1159) wrote:

Performing an interpretation of "Yangguan"[9] in another tone and style, in the previous dynasty[10] only Madam Li (Li Shishi) was capable of doing that. (解唱《陽關》別調聲,前朝惟有李夫人)

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ 角妓 / 角伎 (pinyin: Jiǎojì) refers to women who engaged in performing arts for a living at that time. Their scope of work included: singing, dancing, reciting poetry and painting.
  2. ^ Zhang Bangji (张邦基), Mo Man Lu (墨漫录).
  3. ^ Zhang Duanyi (张端义), Gui Er Ji (贵耳集).
  4. ^ Da Song Xuanhe Yishi (大宋宣和遗事)
  5. ^ Zhang Bangji, Mo Zhuang Man Lu (墨庄漫录).
  6. ^ Water Margin, Chapter 72.
  7. ^ "Nichang Yuyi Qu" (霓裳羽衣曲; literally: "Song of Colourful Plumage") was a musical piece presented by Yang Jingzhong (楊敬忠), jiedushi of Hexi (河西), during the Tianbao era (713-741) of the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.
  8. ^ "Yushu Houting Hua" (玉樹後庭花; literally: "Jade Trees and Courtyard Flowers") was a poem written by the Chen Dynasty's last ruler Chen Shubao (553-604). It was of the gongti (宮体; literally: "palace style") genre of Chinese poetry.
  9. ^ "Yangguan" refers to the "Yangguan Qu" (陽關曲; literally: "Song of Yangguan"), which is also known as "Yangguan San Die" (陽關三疊; literally: "Three Overlaps of Yangguan"). It is an ancient Chinese musical piece based on a poem by Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei (699-759).
  10. ^ The "previous dynasty" refers to the Northern Song Dynasty.