Xie Daoyun (谢道韫, before 340-after 399) was a Chinese poet, writer, scholar, calligrapher and debater of the Eastern Jin Dynasty.

She belonged to the Xie clan from what is now Henan and was a sister of the general Xie Xuan. Though her mother is unknown, it is known that she gave birth to five more children. She was also the favourite niece of prime-minister Xie An. There were Daoist and Confucianist influences in her work.

Her uncle Xie An enjoyed spending time with his nieces and nephews and would quiz them on literature and philosophy. She outperformed her siblings and cousins during the tests her uncle set. Later, she would defend her uncle against the criticism of Huan Xuan.

She married Wang Ningzhi, son of a famous calligrapher. Despite being displeased with him, they still had several children together. The Wang family had debates at their house and she was undefeated at those.


Xie Daoyun, a native of Henan Province in central China, was a celebrated poet during the late Eastern Jin Dynasty. Xie Daoyun was the daughter of Xie Yi, known as “the General Who Pacified the West”. Her uncle was the great poet, Xie An, and her husband was Wang Ningzhi, son of the master calligrapher Wang Xizhi.

In 399, Wang Ningzhi was killed by the insurgent Sun En. Afterwards, Xie lived in Kuaiji in what is now Zhejiang Province as a widow. Xie Daoyun was an intelligent woman and was very eloquent. Her works include “On the Analects of Confucius”, a prose, and “Taishan Mountain” consisting of two poems.

Xie Daoyun was born into a great family. She married Wang Ningzhi, the second son of Wang Xizhi. They were a good match. Wang Ningzhi was an accomplished writer and a renowned calligrapher specializing in the cursory and clerical styles. He followed Taoism. To the Wang family, Xie Daoyun was a good daughter-in-law.

During the Wei and Jin Dynasty, it was popular to hold debate sessions among scholars.. Even women were allowed to participate in such debates. One day, Xie’s brother-in-law was arguing with some scholars, but failed to win them out. Xie, seated behind the green screen, came to his aid. She argued with other scholars. Her speech, richly embellished with allusions and quotations, with deliberate and strong reasoning, She won the debate in the end.

Upon the recommendation of Xie An, Wang Ningzhi was once made a prefect of the Jiang Zhou Prefecture. He was further promoted and given charge of the local administrative and military affairs of a greater area. Later, Sun En rebelled against him. While Wang Ningzhi was praying to God asking for help, Xie Daoyun led a small group of family servants she had trained and came out to chase the rebels. She held a sword and bravely fought the insurgents, but was finally taken captive. Sun En first wanted to kill Xie’s grandson, but he didn’t do so out of his admiration for Xie, whom he viewed as a heroine at the time. Instead, Sun En ordered his followers to protect her and send her back to her home. Hence, Xie Daoyun lived as a chaste widow in Kuaiji.

Xie Daoyun was also a woman of great learning. Liu Cheng, governor of Kuaiji, paid her a visit. Xie heard that Liu was a talented person, so she received him at her home. The two greatly enjoyed the meeting and they appreciated each other’s wisdom.

Because learning was highly respected in Kuaiji, many came to Xie Daoyun, wishing to be her students. Xie, then over 50 years old, sat behind a green screen and gave lectures. She taught many students and was respected as a great teacher.

(Source: Women of China)

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