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Chinese women in history - soldiers, pirates, scholars, sages and rulers

Lady Xu Mu - poet and patriot

Lady Xu Mu is the first recorded poetess in Chinese history.1 Her surname was Ji and she was a princess of the Wei kingdom. She married King Xu Mu of the Xu kingdom and came to be known in history as Lady Xu Mu.2

Xu was far from Wei and Lady Xu Mu missed her country very much. It was in Xu that she composed the highly acclaimed poems "Bamboo Pole" and "Spring Water", expressing her longing for home. Lady Xu Mu wrote many other works but most have been lost.3 Her uncle King Yi of Wei was an incompetent ruler. In 660 BCE, when the Di people invaded Wei, the country was virtually defenceless. King Yi was killed and only a few thousand citizens of Wei survived. Lady Xu Mu's brother came to the throne as King Dai of Wei, only to die shortly later. He was succeeded by King Wen, Lady Xu Mu's other brother.4 Seeing her nation in such distress, Lady Xu Mu decided to travel back to Wei, calling for aid from Wei's neighboring states along the way. The courtiers of Xu pursued after her chariot and compelled her to return to Xu. Thwarted, Lady Xu Mu penned the poem, "Chariot Speeding", a scathing critique of the weakness of the bureaucracy.5 Fortunately, her appeals for aid did not go unheeded. The mighty state of Qi rode to the rescue of Wei, resolving the nation's crisis. Later, the dukes of various city states joined forces to help Wei rebuild its capital at a new location.6

Lady Xu Mu was both appreciated by her contemporaries and admired by later generations. Her poem "Chariot Speeding" was widely distributed by the people of her time. Later, Liu Xiang of Western Han wrote a biography of Lady Xu Mu in his "Heroines of Antiquity".7

X.T.


Notes
  1. Reading 'Chariot Speeding' (Chinese article)
  2. Living History - visiting the old capital of the Wei State (Chinese article)
  3. Lady Xu Mu - Puyang Official Site (Chinese article)
  4. The Chronicles by Sima Qian (Chinese article)
    Reading 'Chariot Speeding' (Chinese article)
  5. Lady Xu Mu - Puyang Official Site (Chinese article)
  6. Reading 'Chariot Speeding' (Chinese article)
  7. Reading 'Chariot Speeding' (Chinese article)