Liu Ru Shi

rippling reflections….Nikon D750   f/4.8  1/250   62mm   800 ISO

The weeping willows stand east of the curtained bowers;
Orioles and butterflies pass through the faded flowers.
But peach blossoms on Cold Food Day are beautified
By beauties living or buried by the lakeside.

~Liu Rushi

The other day, while wandering about YouTube, I stumble upon a Chinese movie, “Liu Ru Shi,” and was memorized by the story of her life’s journey within the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The amazing cinematography that went into the telling of Liu Rushi’s life introduced me to a woman who is known as one of the “Eight Beauties of Qinhuai.” She was celebrated in her time for her beauty and talents and later appreciated and cherished for her integrity and patriotism.

Liu Rushi was not her original name, but a name she gave herself from one of her favorite poems written by Xin Qiji of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The movie begins at the time she was sold by her family to a prostitute as a stepdaughter and then, as a maidservant, to a rich scholar family. During the time in the Zhou household, she was educated in literature, poetry, music, calligraphy and painting. When Zhou died, she returned to a brothel when his wife and concubines threw her out of the home.

Liu often dressed as man, writing poems and discussing current affairs with scholars. She developed close relationships with a number of scholars such as Li Daiwen, Zong Zhengyu and Chen Zilong. She and Chen Zilong became romantically close; yet, when she learned that marriage was not an option he could consider she ended the relationship.

Years later, Liu introduced herself at home of Qian Qianyi, a well-known scholar and retired official, dressed in men’s clothing. Three years after their initial meeting Qian, in his late 50s, chose to disregard social norms and they married.  The movie illustrates a close and supportive marriage, the events that occurred during her pregnancy with their daughter, and the struggles they experienced as the rebels entered Beijing and the Qing Dynasty took control.

Liu committed suicided a few months after Qian, 83 years of age, passed away.

Willow feathers fly into dream
Smoky moon brings out sorrow
From the moment I was thrown into the dusty world
I have experienced so many things and met so many people
So many crossroads
So much helplessness
Now I know that we will never understand
All the things happening around
Therefore I spent my whole life
To clean up the dusts my desires collected
Then I can be worry free and back to calmness.

Note:  While trying to find published works of Liu Rushi’s poems I learned that she had some of her writings published alongside her husband’s.  Yet, my research has not been very fruitful.  If you know of any English translations, I would appreciate hearing from you.


  1. Embarrassingly, this is the first time I heard of Liu’s story. I googled and found many Chinese articles, but I didn’t find much in English. Personally, I think it is very difficult to translate Chinese poems. They (usually) have many layers. Those layers are like negative spaces in photo, they have meanings (create feelings), but hard to explain.
    Have a great day. (By the way, lovely photo, as always.)

    1. Thank you for expanding my awareness regarding translating from Chinese…increases my appreciation for the work that has been translated. Sometimes I wish I was multilingual since each language has a unique style and meanings which seems to open me to a new perspective of the world. Her life story is amazing.

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