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.

In this country we can only stay in hibernation

But winter has come too soon
Our trees begin to dry

We do not have any more nourishment
So our hair is frozen

and has turned gray
by the snow of years

Our skin
looks like a field full of cracks

Winter is here
We are happy to stay in hibernation

The heart is tired
the blood also

Under the snow,
we remain in hibernation

— Li Bifeng

In 2012, dissident poet Li Bifeng was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was previously imprisoned for five years for his pro-democracy activism.