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Wu Tsao
(1799 - 1862) China

Wu Tsao

Poet

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Wu Tsao (also spelled Zao) was born sometime around 1780; her year of birth and death are uncertain. She was the daughter of a merchant and married a merchant herself. Her experiences with these men were not positive and she sought out the company of women, as friends and as lovers. She wrote erotic poems to courtesans, creating unashamed lyric passages full of the sweetness of yearning.

She was China's great lesbian poet, and she was popular while she lived, her songs sung throughout China. Her poetry dealt with a variety of topics, unlike other women poets of her time. This versatility, combined with casual style and personal tone, probably contributed to her popularity.

Later in life, Wu Tsao moved to seclusion and became a Taoist priestess.

In regards to Wu Tsao, Kenneth Rexroth writes "She is one of the great Lesbian poets of all time, perhaps not as great as Sappho, but certainly greater than any modern ones." According to Rexroth, Wu Tsao is usually regarded as the third woman poet of China, after Li Ch'ing-chao and Chu Shu-chên, and with Ne-lan Hsin-tê as one of the two leading tz'u poets of the Ching (Manchu) Dynasty.

Given the quality of Wu Tsao's work and her history, it is disturbing to find that her name rarely appears in Western profiles of poets, and she is not included in literary discussions of the lesbian poetic tradition.

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Source: http://www.sappho.com/

This photograph of a Chinese woman stands in for Wu Tsao, of whom no image is known to exist.

If you want to read some of Wu Tsao's poetry, please go at her page in our book Famous Homoerotic Poems.

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