On Request for a Poem

Do not tell me women
are not the stuff of heroes,
I alone rode over the East Sea’s
winds for ten thousand leagues.
My poetic thoughts ever expand,
like a sail between ocean and heaven.
I dreamed of your three islands,
all gems, all dazzling with moonlight.
I grieve to think of the bronze camels,
guardians of China, lost in thorns.
Ashamed, I have done nothing
not one victory to my name.
I simply make my war horse sweat.
Grieving over my native land
hurts my heart. So tell me:
how can I spend these days here?
A guest enjoying your spring winds?

— Qiu Jin

Qiu Jin (Jianhu Nüxia) fought for women’s rights during the late Qing Dynasty, demanding an end to the subjugation of women, including the practices of arranged marriage and footbinding. Together with poet Xu Zihua, she founded a feminist newspaper called “China Women’s News” in 1906. On July 15, 1907, at the age of 32, she was beheaded for fomenting a revolution against the government.

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