Zhu Shuzhen (朱淑真c. 1135 – 1180) was a Chinese poet who lived during the Song dynasty. She married an official with whom she had a bad marriage. She either had an affair or committed suicide and after she died, her parents burned poetry that she had written.

Copies of her poetry had already been circulating and 339 shi and 33 ci by her could be reconstituted. Her poems dealt with love’s sorrows and her collection is called Heartbreaking Verse. Since she adopted a few lines from Li Qingzhao’s work, it’s clear that Zhu Shuzhen was familiar with at least some of her work.

Although some of Zhu Shuzhen’s poems have been seen by some scholars as disgraceful, it is nevertheless valuable to explore the inner world and poetic indications of the voice projected from the poems in an objective way. However, as the number of poems attributed to Zhu Shuzhen is large, despite living under an atmosphere that discouraged the writing of poetry by women, her name is undoubtedly significant in the development of female poetry. Western theories of gender representation and the development of self in literature have been used as the main sources and frameworks for research in this thesis. The aesthetic values in Zhu Shuzhen’s original verse have been retained through my translations by selecting the best appropriate original versions in different editions.

Comparisons between Zhu Shuzhen and Yu Xuanji fa, (8447-868?), a woman poet in the Tang Dynasty, reveal similarities and differences which distinguish the two in terms of their resistance to the code that cast women as inferior. This thesis will analyse Zhu Shuzhen’s ambivalent mind as revealed in her poetry through her contradictory statements, ideas and images regarding the notion of being a good wife on the one hand, and, on the other hand, of a woman suspected of conducting an extramarital affair.

Poems by Zhu Shuzhen

Imminent Snow

Silent winter sparrows
fill bamboo thickets
Frozen clouds curtain the sky
snow about to fall
The north wind gives
no one special favors
Plum branches hold
their blossoms tight

Climbing A Tower On An Autumn Day

Scattered shadows of parasol trees
play in evening light
Dying cicadas buzz cold, mournful
I can’t bear to listen
From above, autumn mountains
to the end of my sight
Eyes brimming over
layer upon layer of green

Jianzimu Orchid

Sitting alone,
Promoting independence is also alone on pay alone.
Standing of trouble,
Qing Han a feeling helpless people.
Who see this situation,
Tears wash the makeup-free half.
Disease phase is still unhappy,
Tick to make the cold light dream accomplished.


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