The Zuo zhuan 左傳 , or Zuo Commentary, written around the 4th century BCE, is a chronological collection of narratives about the feudal states of China during the later Zhou dynasty, also known as the Spring and Autumn Period 春秋 (770 – 476 BCE) . In this set of translations, I have pulled together the records related to specific characters or events. My translation aims for the literal, the goal being to give a sense of what it is like to read the Zuo zhuan in its original language.
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. 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.