Woman with attitude

Seal script character Ying

Seal script for Ying, surname of the ruling house of Qin

Lady Ying of Qin

Lady Ying was a daughter of Duke Mu of Qin (reigned 659 – 620 BCE). She is one of the few women mentioned in the Zuo zhuan, or Zuo Commentary, written around the 4th century BCE, a chronological collection of narratives about the feudal states of China during the later Zhou dynasty (the Spring and Autumn Period 春秋 770 – 476 BCE). The Zuo zhuan paints her as a confident, assertive woman, even if she does not escape the restrictive role given to her by society and the deprecatory comments of the male actors in it. When I began reading the Zuo zhuan, this representation of women as complex characters in their own right was a pleasant surprise, given the strength of the patriarchal dominance of the history and literature of the age. Lady Ying’s story tells us a little bit about one woman from a period that tells us very little about women. In this excerpt, Lady Ying speaks her mind to two lords of the powerful state of Jin, the second of whom is soon to become the famous Duke Wen, hegemon of the feudal lords of the states.

In 645 BCE, Duke Mu, ruler of the state of Qin, attacked and defeated the army of the state of Jin. Duke Mu captured Duke Hui, the ruler of Jin, but allowed Duke Hui to return to Jin in exchange for his son and heir, the Taizi (“designated heir”) Yu.

In the summer (of 643 BCE), the Taizi Yu of Jin became a hostage in Qin. Duke Mu of Qin gave him as wife his daughter Lady Ying.

夏 . 晉 大 子 圉 為 質 於 秦 . 秦 歸 河 東 而 妻 之 .

Yu planned to escape and said to Lady Ying, “Will you return home with this gentleman?”

將 逃 歸 . 謂 嬴 氏 曰 . 與 子 歸 乎 .

She replied, “You, sir, are the Taizi of Jin and you are shamed in Qin. If you, sir, wish to return home, is that not appropriate? But my unworthy lord (her father, Duke Mu of Qin) appointed this handmaid to wait on you holding towel and comb, so as to be your firm support. If I follow you in returning home, I will abandon my lord’s command. I dare not follow you, but I also dare not speak to anyone of this.” So he escaped and went home.

對 曰 . 子 . 晉 大 子 . 而 辱 於 秦 . 子 之 欲 歸 . 不 亦 宜 乎 . 寡 君 之 使 婢 子 侍 執 巾 櫛 . 以 固 子 也 . 從 子 而 歸 . 棄 君 命 也 . 不 敢 從 . 亦 不 敢 言 . 遂 逃 歸 .

In 637 BCE, Duke Hui of Jin died and Yu took the throne. Chong-er, Duke Hui’s half-brother, had been exiled from Jin. He had been travelling from state to state seeking support from their rulers, and was now making his way to Jin to claim the throne.

In Qin, Duke Mu presented him with five women, among whom was Lady Ying. One day, she served him with a basin of water for washing. When he was done, he waved her away. She was angry and said, “Qin and Jin are equals. Why do you disparage me?” The Gongzi (“son of a duke”) was afraid and lowered his robes like a captive.

秦 伯 納 女 五 人 . 懷 嬴 與 焉 . 奉 匜 沃 盥 . 既 而 揮 之 . 怒 曰 . 秦 晉 匹 也 . 何 以 卑 我 . 公 子 懼 . 降 服 而 囚 .

In spring of 636 BCE, Chong-er entered Jin. He sent his people to kill Yu and, with the help of Duke Mu of Qin, took the throne of Jin. He is known posthumously as Duke Wen.

Duke Wen of Jin went to meet his wife Lady Ying and they returned home. Duke Mu of Qin gave to Jin three thousand functionaries who would serve in the institutions of the government.

晉 侯 逆 夫 人 嬴 氏 以 歸 . 秦 伯 送 衛 於 晉 三 千 人 . 實 紀 綱 之 僕 .

Read the rest of the story of Lady Ying.

© Lena Tan 2016. If you quote from this translation, please credit me and reference my website.

Plum Blossoms

The sky is light gray, there is a dampness on the road, a bit of wind but no rain – it is just such a day and the wild plum in the backyard is almost in bloom.

lqz4b

Li Qingzhao: Song to the tune of “Pusaman”

Translation and artwork: Lena Tan, 2006

Li Qingzhao (c.1083-aft.1149) was the daughter of a respected scholar and official in Song dynasty China. Her husband was often traveling on official business, perhaps accounting for the recurrent theme of aloneness in her poetry, although the loneliness of women was a common subject for this form of poetry written to the tunes of popular songs. In 1126, the Song capital fell to northern invaders and the court retreated southward to establish a new capital in Hangzhou. Li’s husband died at this time and she was left on her own to relocate her household.

More images…

More poets…

The Horse

horse

The Horse

Coloured pencil drawing. Available as 4″ x 6″ print mounted on greeting card.

The Fisher Price horse broke after one move too many. It was in the basement for many years, still ridable but at some risk, and I was surprisingly sad when I finally put it in the garbage can.

You will find this greeting card at Little Earth, 1020 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, B.C.

On abortion, Sanders stays true

Bernie Sanders at Liberty University(Starting at 7:39 on the video):

“Senator Sanders, you have talked in your campaign about how it is immoral to protect the billionaire class at the expense of our most vulnerable in society, obviously children…. A majority of Christians would agree with you … but would also go further and say that children in the womb need our protection even more…. How do you reconcile the two?”

Bernie Sanders answers:

“…on this very sensitive issue on which this nation is divided… my view is I respect absolutely a family that says, ‘No, we are not going to have an abortion,’ I understand that, I respect that. But I would hope that other people will respect the very painful and difficult choice that many women feel they have to make and don’t want the government telling them what they have to do.”

Listen to women cheering at his answer. When medical science discovers a way to transplant a fetus to a man’s body, we’ll ask the question again.

Sanders also says in his response:

“I want to tell you what was in the Republican budget that passed a number of months ago… When you talk about issues of children, understand the Republican budget threw 27 million people off of health care, including many children, at a time when many families cannot afford to send their kids to college.”

The entire speech is worth watching –  he talks justice! morality!

My own view on abortion:

Let’s support girls and women with education and good jobs so that no woman has to defer to a man over control of her body. Let’s bring up boys to respect women and women’s bodies so that there are no unwanted pregnancies. Let’s give pregnant women the financial support they need to take care of their babies so that abortion is not a consequence of poverty.

Ever gonna happen?

Of dreams and the remains of memories

Brain research tells us that when people start losing their memories, emotional memory is the most persistent. I didn’t know that when I wrote the following. Or perhaps I did know it and have forgotten.

Aug. 16, 1998

She remembers the twelve-year-old sleeping on the cot beside hers – warm, brown, and breathing loudly. But he’s gone, long gone. This stranger coming in now, carnations in one hand, a mason jar in the other, this tall stranger with the strong brown arms – who is he?

She remembers to smile: her mouth smiles, anyway. She asks what he’s been up to. Somewhere in that conversation, there is a spark, a remembrance of laughter, from mouth to eyes to brain to heart – the heart is another muscle and needs to be exercised.

It’s eight o’clock and the visitors are leaving. He leans over the bed and reaches his arms around her. He pats her on the back and she holds herself up straight. “I’ll try to come again. I’ll come again,” he says. “See you, mom.”

This stranger is gone, but the boy, where did he go?

Dark Queen

There was a time when I was still using Windows95 and hooked on Freecell.

April 7, 1998

Kid: Mom?

Mom: Hey hon.

K: Were you talking to yourself?

M: Why do you say that?

K: Let me put it this way. Stop talking to yourself. It’s scaring me.

M: I’m not talking to myself.

K: Well, you’re talking to somebody and I don’t see anyone.

M: All right. I’m talking to the computer.

K: And it’s talking to you?

M: Well, yeah. See, the Queen of Spades is….

K: Now you’re really scary.

M: Go back to bed.

K: How come I don’t get to play so late?

M: ‘Cause you have to go to school.

K: Mom, tomorrow’s a P.D. day.

M: ‘Cause you’re a kid.

K: Yeah? Well, you’re crazy.

M: Go to bed. We’ll talk in the morning.

K: It is morning.

M: Go to bed.

K: Only if you stop talking to yourself.

M: OK – go…. Now where was I?

K: I can hear you!

Must work to free the Queen. The Queen speaks when freed, gives advice on critical issues. “Invalid parameters. Try again.” Losing streak: the Queen can’t be freed; life falls apart. “Fatal error. This program is closing because of invalid input.” Students are macho, racist. Boyfriend becoming verbally abusive. “Enter user-defined string.”

Driving home after dinner with parents.

K: Mom, are you watching the road?

M: Aaaa… yeah, I’m watching the road.

K: The Queen of Spades isn’t here you know.

M: Yeah, I know.

Living Wages

Reuters headline yesterday: “Minimum wage fight hits the streets of nearly 200 U.S. cities”

Aug. 17, 1998

I went to work for a day and they paid me $70 an hour for six hours. At $7 an hour that’s 60 hours, or 42 hours at $10 an hour, more than a week’s work, standing on your feet all day, lifting heavy bolts of fabric, opening drawers of dress patterns, bending and heaving, cutting and turning, until you hurt your back, your wrists, your legs. Arthritis, rheumatism, varicose veins, carpal tunnel, you’ve got it all. $10 an hour – that’s a lot of money. That’s a good job. They made you manager of the store.

“What about you? What do you do?”

“Oh, I – I teach. I work on my own. Not all the time. Just when they call me.” I mumble and avoid their eyes.

They look at me, not sure whether to feel sorry or envious. “It’s good to work for yourself. Set your own hours. No one to be your boss.”

“Ahh… well, I have to work when they call. It’s hard not to know when I have to work. A steady job is good.”

They feel sorry for me now. “Yes, a steady job is good. Bring in some money. Pay the bills. It’s not easy, getting a good job.”

Recent forays beyond the walls: Saint Joan

Saint Joan, the Arts Club production of George Bernard Shaw’s play, featured an amazing portrayal of Joan of Arc by Meg Roe. Shaw wrote the play after the canonization of Joan in 1920. In Shaw’s epilogue, the spectre of Joan asks: “[S]hall I rise from the dead, and come back to you a living woman?” As the men who were just revering the saint on their knees begin to make their excuses and leave, Joan says, “What? Must I burn again?” In this shortened version of the play, only the last lines of the epilogue, which in the original were voiced by Joan, were recited by Meg Roe:

“O God that madest this beautiful earth, when will it be ready to receive Thy saints? How long, O Lord, how long?”