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Leaves of Prayer

This is an authentic history of a Chinese female poet, He Shuangqing. She lived at a time when people regarded men as superior to women. However, she was fortunate to have some scholar acquaintances who were open-minded. They spurned the traditional attitude towards her sex and showed their appreciation of her poems and her attitude towards life. One of the scholars, Shi Zhenlin, wrote down and recorded her life and poetry in his book Xiqing sanji (West Green Random Notes) so that her poems could be read by more people. Leaves of Prayer is a translation of Xiqing sanji.Part 1 gives an introduction to Shi Zhenlin's Xiqing sanji and He Shuangqing, the poet. Part 2 is a translation of Xiqing sanji which narrates the vicissitudes of He Shuangqing's life. Part 3 lists the poems of He Shuangqing with their originals written in Chinese calligraphy.
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About the Author

Elsie Choy's background spans both America and China, from where her paternal grandparents emigrated to Hawaii in the 1800s. Born in Shanghai, she was raised in both cultures, tutored in the Chinese classics and attended both Chinese and American schools in that city. She worked at the Columbia University on a research project on contemporary cultures under the direction of Ruth Benedict, then Margaret Mead after Benedict's death.


What a wonderful story this is. It has all the elements of a fable and a detective story, yet it is authentic feminist history -one more revelation of the brutal way certain otherwise noble societies treated women and one more proof that the proud, gifted individual could still rise above circumstances to leave a mark on the world's memory. He Shuangqing, our heroine, lived in the lower Yangzi Valley of China in the eighteenth century. Bound into a brutish marriage, she poured her heart's blood into poems written on leaves, in ink made of pollen, until her death at 22. These verses, sensitively translated, are a gift in themselves. But the book goes further. For Elsie Choy pursued a line of clues back to the long-lost notebooks of a scholar-contemporary of the poet, who preserved not only the poems but a fascinating view of their background, for our edification today.

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