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Chinese women in history - soldiers, pirates, scholars, sages and rulers

Xie Daoyun - literary inspiration for future generations

The poetess Xie Daoyun was born during the Jin Dynasty into the famous literary Xie family.1 She is one of the most culturally important personalities to emerge from this talented family. Medieval records state "Lady Xie Daoyun was a literary giant. Her poems, essays and eulogies were highly praised throughout the land." Xie's writings were widely circulated during her time though many did not survive to the present day. Her famous 'Snow Poem', however, has been in circulation for more than a thousand years.2

Xie Daoyun's influence on Chinese literary culture extended well beyond her time. She has been quoted in San Zi Jing (The Three Word Texts) - a classical childhood education text that has been used over hundreds of years.3 The Chinese saying "Such a Wang actually exists in Heaven and Earth" originated with Xie's criticism of her husband Wang Ning, as recorded in the Song Dynasty book Shishuo Xinyu. Later people used this expression to indicate a woman's dissatisfaction with her husband.4 Xie also inspired the Tang Dynasty writer Li He to create the expression "Lad Tan and Lady Xie", referring to the perfect match between a beautiful, graceful man and a brilliant, intelligent woman. 'Lad Tan' refers to Jin Dynasty personality Pan Yue, whose pet name was Tan. He was well-known for his grace and deportment. Lady Xie, of course, refers to Xie Daoyun who was famous for her surpassing talent.5


  1. Renjiaoban Free Syllabus Literature Text for Level 7 Introduction to Unit 5
  2. The language and characters of Shishuo Xinyu
  3. Languages and Sentences - San Zi Jing
  4. The Idiom Library
  5. The Idiom Library