Chinese Prostitute Poets: Endless Nostalgia

The numbers in the history of Chinese poetry are impressive. Since ancient times, almost two thousand years before Christ, about ten thousand poets have been recorded. Only in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) 48,900 poems were written, although we can only remember some names from this period of splendor, such as the great Li Po, Du Fu or Han Yu. Guojian Chen shares these figures in his book “Anthology of Chinese Prostitute Poets. Siglo V – Siglo XXI ”(Visor, 2011), a space to learn about the voice of women who were led, by marginalization and inequality, into prostitution. At least 200 authors have been documented in these conditions and their work has a unique strength.

It was natural for smart midwives to choose and hire young women born into cultured families but downtrodden by some circumstance. In addition, they also selected beautiful and ready girls to receive a proper education, to study poetry and learn to verse, sing and dance, in order to attract an exquisite and solvent clientele, and thus prostitute poets appeared, which would have been impossible to exist. in other areas, in other parts of the world”Explains Chen. Traditionally, the male view of prostitutes has romanticized this “profession” in literature and in history over time. But the reality of these young women was cruel and difficult, amid abuse, exploitation and social marking. Many struggled to get out of prostitution and they did.

The most famous writer of the Tang Dynasty was Xue Tao (768-832). Forced by circumstances after her father’s death, she worked as “singer-prostitute”. She managed to improve her situation and for many years she was admired for her verses. There is a constant in Xue Tao’s poetry that is twinned with that of other poets: nostalgia, sadness and the separation of lovers: “A from tonight we are separated by a thousand leagues. / Long as a great wall the nightmare of absence”, He details. Another shocking voice is that of Guan Panpan (7th century). Chen says that Minister Zhang Jian “He took her as a concubine and built the Mansion of the Swallows for her. Eleven years after Zhang’s death, Guan wrote these poems in memory of her husband and later committed suicide. “. Among the passages it reads: “Ten years have passed / since you were buried / with your sword and your belongings. / No one has heard my songs again, / see my painted face, / or smell the perfume on my red sleeves ”.

Among the stories of the poets is that of a nameless woman, known only as “Prostituta de Taiyuan”In the 9th century. Her lover left her to go to work in another city and she, sick before dying, dedicates: “After your departure, my freshness is lost, / half from longing, half from resentment. / When you return and want to see me, / you will not find more than my hair / stored in my jewelery box ”. Zhang Yaotiao, in the same century, writes about abandonment, to show his “deep sadness.”

Wu Shuji, (12th century), titled a poem as “Endless Nostalgia.” Two words that could be the heart of the poetry written by these prostituted women. Qi Yingyun (14th century) says, after saying goodbye to his love: “How I wish my copious tears / would turn into a raging storm / that would prevent you from leaving tomorrow!” Wu Shuji (12th century), unjustly imprisoned, composes some verses to prove that she is a poet. He goes free. Wang Wei talks about pain and distance. He says that his cry overflows the stream, “So much that it would be impossible / to measure its depth.” In the anthology the female conflict of waiting resurfaces. These women do not weave shrouds, like Penelope, but they leave poems so that their emotion lasts. With the word, they fight for their humanity in short-lived works that in recent years have been rescued from oblivion.

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