Li Qingzhao

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Li Qingzhao
Li Qingzhao statue.JPG
Statue of Li Qingzhao in the Li Qingzhao Memorial, Zhangqiu District, Jinan
Jinan, Shandong, China
Died1155 (aged 70–71)
OccupationPoet, essayist
Notable work
Jīn Shí Lù
Su Yu Ci
  • Zhao Mingcheng
  • Zhang Ruzhou
Parent(s)Li Gefei (father)
Chinese name
Yi'an Jushi

Li Qingzhao (Chinese: 李清照; pinyin: Lǐ Qīngzhào; Wade–Giles: Li Ch'ing-chao; 1084 – c. 1155, – c.[1]), pseudonym Householder of Yi'an (易安居士), was a Chinese poet and essayist during the Song dynasty.[2] She is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history.[3]


Li Qingzhao, painted by Qing dynasty painter Jiang Xun (1764-1821).
Li Qingzhao Memorial at Baotu Spring garden in Jinan

Li Qingzhao was born in 1084, in Zhangqiu located in modern Shandong province. She was born to a family of scholar-officials, and her father was a student of Su Shi. The family had a large collection of books, and Li was able to receive comprehensive education in her childhood. From a very young age, she was unusually outgoing for a woman from a scholar-official family.[citation needed]

Before she got married, her poetry was already well known within elite circles. In 1101 she married Zhao Mingcheng, with whom she shared interests in art collection and epigraphy. They lived in present-day Shandong. After her husband started his official career, he was often absent. They were not particularly rich but shared enjoyment of collecting inscriptions and calligraphy which made their daily life count and they lived happily together. This inspired some of the love poems that she wrote. Li and her husband collected many books. They shared a love of poetry and often wrote poems for each other as well as writing about bronze artifacts of the Shang and Zhou dynasties.

The Northern Song capital of Kaifeng fell in 1127 to the Jurchens during the Jin–Song wars. Fighting took place in Shandong and their house was burned. The couple took many of their possessions when they fled to Nanjing, where they lived for a year. Zhao died in 1129 en route to an official post. The death of her husband was a cruel stroke from which Li never recovered. It was then up to her to keep safe what was left of their collection. Li described her married life and the turmoil of her flight in an Afterword to her husband's posthumously published work, Jīn Shí Lù (金石錄). Her earlier poetry portrays her carefree days as a woman of high society, and is marked by its elegance.

Li subsequently settled in Hangzhou, where the Song government made its new capital after the war against the Jurchens. During this period, she continued writing poetry. She also kept working on completing the book Jīn Shí Lù, which was originally written by Zhao Mingcheng. The book was mainly about the calligraphy on the bronze and stones: it also mentions the documents Li and Zhao collected and viewed during the early period. According to some contemporary accounts, she was briefly married to a man named Zhang Ruzhou (張汝舟) who treated her badly, and she divorced him within months.[4] She survived the criticism of this marriage.

Only around a hundred of her poems are known to survive, mostly in the ci form and tracing her varying fortunes in life. Also a few poems in the shi form have survived, the Afterword and a study of the form of poetry. Her life was full of twists and turns and her poems can be split into two main parts - the dividing line being when she moved to the south. During the early period, most of her poems were related to her feelings as a maiden. They were more like love poems. After her move to the south, they were closely linked with her hatred of the war against the Jurchens and her patriotism. She is credited with the first detailed critique of the metrics of Chinese poetry. She was regarded as a master of wǎnyuē pài (婉约派) "the delicate restraint".

Modern References[edit]

Two impact craters, Li Ch'ing-Chao (crater) on planet Mercury and Li Qingzhao on planet Venus, are named after her.

'Ru Meng Ling' [5] and 'Sheng Sheng Man' [6] have been set to music as part of the song cycle 'Chinese Memories' by composer Johan Famaey in 2011.

In 2017, the composer Karol Beffa wrote Fragments of China (Klarthe), setting four of her poems to music.[citation needed] River of Stars, a novel by Guy Gavriel Kay set in Song Dynasty China, features a primary protagonist inspired by Li Qingzhao, as acknowledged by the author in the book.[7]


  1. ^ "Li Ch'ing-Chao". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. NASA. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  2. ^ Chang, Saussy & Kwong 1999, p. 89.
  3. ^ "Li Qingzhao". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  4. ^ Rexroth & Chung, 93.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kay, Guy Gavriel. (2 April 2013). River of Stars. pp. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. ISBN 9780143188698. OCLC 881497990.


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