Women's Activism NYC

Huang Chonggu

885 - 924

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Huang Chonggu was a poet and civil servant who lived during the Tang Dynasty from 885 to 924. She is renowned not only for her exceptional academic skills but also for her daring act of impersonating a man. Huang's fascinating life story and her captivating poems have inspired numerous adaptations throughout history, both in classical and modern literature. Born as the daughter of a civil servant, Huang's life took a tragic turn when she became an orphan at a young age. Nevertheless, she demonstrated remarkable resilience and independence. In a bold move, Huang started dressing as a man, challenging the societal norms of the time. In 915, Huang found herself facing suspicion of arson, a serious crime. However, she cleverly composed a poem in her defense, showcasing her intelligence and talent. This poem caught the attention of Zhou Xiang, the Prime Minister of the state of Shu, who was deeply impressed by her abilities and acquitted her of the charges. Recognizing Huang's potential, Zhou Xiang provided her with a scholarship to pursue further education at a nearby university. Upon completing her studies, Huang joined the local administration, where she excelled as a poet, a skilled chess player, and a capable official and administrator. Her talents left a lasting impression on Zhou Xiang, who even offered her one of his daughter's hands in marriage. However, Huang's true identity was eventually revealed through her poem titled "辞蜀相妻⼥诗" (Farewell Poem to the Wife of the Shu Prime Minister), written in the Qijue style. While Zhou Xiang admired Huang's decision to live as a man, the administration did not share the same sentiment, leading to her dismissal. Huang Chonggu's story has captivated the imaginations of many throughout history and has been depicted in various literary works. The Ming dynasty artist and playwright Xu Wei, for instance, immortalized her tale in his play "The Girl Graduate Rejects the Female Phoenix and Gains the Male Phoenix."

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