“Little do they know of a weaving girl…”

Uyghur silk from Urumqi, sitting in my trunk, waiting for me to make something of it

“Written At A Party Where My Lord Gave Away A Thousand Bolts Of Silk”


A bolt of silk for each clear toned song.

Still these beauties do not think it is enough.

Little do they know of a weaving girl,

Sitting cold by her window,

Endlessly throwing her shuttle to and fro.

–Ch’ien T’ao, early 11th c. Chinese poet, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung

When I look for information about the woman poet who wrote this beautiful piece, I discover that she was a concubine of a prime minister of Sung. Only two of her poems survive. So I celebrate her this morning, on International Womens Day, and I celebrate all the women who noticed and wrote and whose work survives — or doesn’t. And the young girl weaving the silk, who no doubt had dreams of her own.

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