Gu Taiqing (Chinese: 顾太清; Pinyin: Gù Tàiqīng; 1799 – c. 1877) was one of the top-ranked women poets of the Qing Dynasty. She is especially known for her ci poetry and for her sequel to the novel Honglou meng. (Dream of the Red Chamber) One scholar estimates that there are as many as 1,163 surviving poems written by Gu.
She was descended from Manchu family from the Silin-Gioro 西林觉罗 clan. There had been some debate as to whether or not she was of Manchu descent. It had been claimed that she was born into a banner family named Gu and took on Manchu identity after her marriage to Yihui 奕会 (1799-1838), a Manchu prince. Other scholars claim that the confusion about her identity is an attempt to obscure her family's descent from E-er-tai, a Manchu grand secretary disgraced (and forced to commit suicide) during one of Qianlong's literary inquisitions.
Her marriage to Yihui seems to have been a happy one, despite the fact that she had the status of concubine rather than primary wife. She had five children—three sons and two daughters. Yihui also had children with his primary wife, who died early. Gu's life was thrown into turmoil when her husband died in 1838. Yihui's family forced her and her children out of their Beijing home. The reasons for their hostility are unclear, but a rumored affair between Gu Taiqing and Gong Zichen may have been part of the story. During this period of poverty she may have sustained her family by selling jewelry and artwork.
After the death of her husband, Gu's circle of female friends, including the Xu sisters Yunlin and Yunjiang and Shen Shanbao, who was her sworn sister, became even more important to her, both emotionally and as a source of creative inspiration.
Gu Taiqing was the author of a sequel to Honglou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber), entitled Honglou meng ying紅樓夢影 (Dream Shadows of the Red Chamber).
Gu Taiqing's poems exist in a number of modern editions. Translations of individual poems have been made by Ellen Widmer; David McCraw, Grace S. Fong and Irving Yucheng Lo; Yanning Wang; and Wilt Idema and Beata Grant.
- Wang Yanning "A Manchu Female Poet's Oneiric and Poetic Worlds: Gu Taiqing's (1799-1877) Dream Poems," Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies 3(2), p.3.
- Natasha Jennifer Chow, "Sequels to Honglou meng: How Gu Taiqing Continues the Story in Honglou meng ying," M.A. Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2012, p.3.
- Ellen Widmer, The Beauty and the Book: Women and Fiction on Nineteenth-Century China. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006, pp.187-88 discusses various versions of the story of Gu's family background. Wang Yanning asserts quite clearly that Gu was from a Manchu family. See Wang Yanning "A Manchu Female Poet's Oneiric and Poetic Worlds: Gu Taiqing's (1799-1877) Dream Poems," Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies 3(2)1-22, as does Jennifer Chow.
- Widmer, The Beauty and the Book, p.188. Some sources say that she had seven children.
- Ellen Widmer, "Honglou Meng Sequels and their Female Readerships in Nineteenth-Century China" in Snakes' Kegs: Sequels, Continuations, Rewritings and Chinese Fiction, edited by Martin Huang. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2004, p.118.
- Widmer, The Beauty and the Book, p.189.
- Ellen Widmer, The Beauty and the Book: Women and Fiction on Nineteenth-Century China. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006, chapter 6.
- Beauty and the Book, pp.187-202,
- Women Writers of Traditional China: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticism, edited by Kang-i Sun Chang and Haun Saussy. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, pp.589-600.
- Yanning Wong. Reverie and Reality: Poetry on Travel by Late Imperial Chinese Women, Lexington Books, 2014, chapter 4 "A Manchu Woman's Short Excursions." pp.115-145, passim.
- The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China, edited by Wilt Idema and Beata Grant. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard East Asia Monographs, 2004, pp.630-652. This section also includes a brief excerpt from her sequel to Honglou meng.'
Beata Grant, "The Poetess and the Precept Master: A Selection of Daoist Poems by Gu Taiqing" in M. van Crevil, T.Y. Tan and M.Hockx, (eds.) Text, Performance, and Gender in Chinese Literature and Music: Essays in Honor of Wilt Idema. Leiden: Brill, 2009, pp. 325–339
Wang Yanning, "A Manchu Female Poet's Oneiric and Poetic Worlds: Gu Taiqing's (1799-1877) Dream Poems," Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies. 3(2)1-22
Ellen Widmer,The Beauty and the Book: Women and Fiction on Nineteenth-Century China. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006, especially chapter 6.