A Song of Her Spirit: An Examination of a Daoist Nun’s Poetry
Posted on 20. Apr, 2010 by James Miller in Sixth International Daoist Studies Conference
|Title||A Song of Her Spirit: An Examination of a Daoist Nun’s Poetry|
|Publication Type||Conference Paper|
|Year of Publication||2010|
|Conference Name||Sixth International Conference on Daoist Studies: Daoism Today: Science, Health, Ecology|
|Keywords||Sixth International Daoist Studies Conference|
Cao Wenyi (1040-1115) or Immortal Lady Cao was a prominent and respected nun in the Song dynasty. Emperor Huizong awarded her three honorific titles and ordered temples constructed for her. Though numerous, many of her books were destroyed or lost but a key alchemical poem, the “Song to Spirit Source and Supreme Dao,” in 128 lines has survived. Chen Yingning (1880-1969) notes that Cao was the first Daoist nun to write about inner alchemy, and her personal experience with regard to steps and methods for carrying on Daoist practice. Given the esteem bestowed upon her poetry, and the immense prestige she enjoyed in Daoist religion, I attempt to render her work in English with an analysis of its structures and meanings. Through an exploration of Cao’s work, I aim to illustrate the aspiration and cultural life of this prominent Daoist nun of the Song period and contribute a more complete comprehension of the theories and approaches to women’s inner alchemical program.