A Sprig of Plum Blossom (李清照 一剪梅)
66 X 27 cm in Semicursive Script (行書)
This poem was composed by Li Qingzhao (李清照, 1084 – 1151 AD) in the Song Dynasty of China. Li was certainly the most famous female poet of her times, and some even went further to say that she is the greatest female poet in Chinese history (1). However, Li's life was rather miserable (2)(3), and this particular poem was composed to express her feelings for her husband who was not always home due to his civil service assignments.
|Flowers wither as water flows;|
| 一種相思，兩處閒愁。||one kind of longing, two places of sorrows;|
|此情無計可消除，||These feelings cannot be washed away;|
|才下眉頭，卻上心頭。||Just as they drop out of my eyebrows, they all surge towards my very heart.|
(translated by KS Vincent Poon, Oct . 2015)
Li was extremely talented but her life was not smooth, if not tragic. At the age of eighteen, she married her first husband, who was frequently not home due to official duties. After fifteen years of marriage, the country's capital, Kaifeng (開封), fell to the Jurchens (女真)and her home in Shandong (山東) was burnt to ashes, forcing her and her husband to flee to Nanjing (南京). Her husband died three years later in 1129 AD due to sickness(4), and she never really recovered from her husband's death emotionally. One famous scholar, Zhu Yu (朱彧), commented her life as "fate had blessed her with a great talent, but not a good life" (天獨厚其才而嗇其遇).
It seems that most talented people face tragic fate in history; Beethoven's deafness in his later years and Vincent van Gogh's frequent bouts of mental illness are prime examples of tragedy brought about to talented people. One may argue that this demonstrates the balance of Nature, so that no one can be perfect in every aspect in life. Another view is that these types of tragic events were absolutely required for these great artists to produce their masterpieces; without them, they would not be as passionate and would had very little inspiration to create their arts. This is, of course, somewhat cruel, but very possible.