Unsold Peony: The Life and Poetry of Daoist Priestess-Poet Yu Xuanji of Tang China

Jinhua Jia, University of Macau
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring 2016), 25-57

This article takes an interdisciplinary approach to a comprehensive examination of the life, poetry, and subjectivity of the Daoist priestess-poet Yu Xuanji of Tang China. It begins with a philological study and textual analysis that reconstructs Yu’s life and psychological experience. Through close readings of her poems, interpretations of their images and symbols, and analyses of their syntax and structure, the article then undertakes a nuanced interpretation of Yu’s works that reveals her strong subjectivity and acknowledges her poetic achievements. By situating her work within its cultural-religious contexts and applying a feminist and gender critical lens to her writings, the article also foregrounds Yu’s gender awareness and agency as a Daoist priestess and dispels the false label of “courtesan” placed on her by discourses of later ages.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]