Speaking in Her Voice: Allusion, Metaphor, and Male Forlornness in Li Shangyin’s Love Poems

Derived from a tradition in which genders are allegorically employed to express emperor-minister relations in classical Chinese literature, the Late-Tang poet Li Shangyin (ca. 812-858) who is well known for his allusive and enigmatic styles, often expresses his feelings, disappointments, and wishes through an abandoned or lonely female persona in his love poems. Through examining several allusions to textual and mythical female figures in a few “untitled” love poems of his, this study explores the relationship between Li Shangyin and his poetic female persona, attempting to shed new lights on our understanding of this poet in the context of the aforementioned literary tradition:  as a male poet speaking in a female voice in his love poems, Li Shangyin creates a non-allegorical space where he metaphorically draws a similarity between his own male forlornness and a lovelorn woman’s life.  


  • East Asian Studies