On Reading Shitou ji (Honglou meng), I celebrate the Lady of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers
A fairy form, an immortal banished to an earthly home of wealth.
With poor fate and great talent, it is difficult to protect oneself.
A flower endowed with feeling would only arouse regret.
Women find that literacy is the root of their undoing.
In vain did the Lady of Xiang’s tears speckle the bamboo.
Who will cherish her delicate soul?
When she returns to the Land of Illusion, she will surely understand
That the karma of passion and intelligence leave no traces.
Widmer, Beauty and the Book, 142.
Notes on the Poem
Qian Shoupu 錢守璞(ca. 1801-1869) was a poet and a painter. She was a student of Gai Qi 改琦, the painter whose work was the basis of the Honglou meng tuyong 紅樓夢圖詠.
The “lady of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers“ 瀟湘妃子 refers to Daiyu 黛玉。
Qian is also the author of a series of poems entitled “Honglou qu.” Chinese texts of those poems can be found here. More information on Qian’s marriage can be found in Fong, “Private Emotion, Public Commemoration.”
See Hu 2008, 750.