Ambivalence in poetry : Zhu Shuzhen of the Song dynasty
Chan, Kar Yue
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Many people in the past praised Chinese literature partly because of the glamour revealed in splendid poetry, and in creating these poetry male poets have proved their excellence. Conversely the contributions of women poets have seemed much less significant in the history of traditional Chinese literature. Among the relatively small number of famous women poets in China, Zhu Shuzhen (11357-1180?) is certainly worthy of discussion, but she has not received much critical attention, in part because of the lack of reliable biographical information. 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.