Li Qingzhao was born in the 11th Century AD into a Jinan literary dynasty. Her poetry broke through many of the constraints that the patriarchal feudal code placed upon women living in the Song dynasty, and she is widely regarded as one of the finest poets in ancient China. Themes of love and emotion are dealt with delicately and given a light touch often tinged with sorrow.
Though she was already well known for her poetry by the time of her marriage, Li's husband Zhao Mincheng (1081-1129) was the inspiration for her most famous works. Zhao was a student at the Imperial Museum when they met, but began to travel extensively as soon as he started his work as a seal cutter, for which he received high acclaim. His extended absences form the base for much of Li's work, who pined for her husband. Their marriage seems to have been idyllic and the pair shared many interests including a passion for art and antiques.
A double tragedy struck Li when she lost her beloved Zhao to illness and then later lost her collection of antiques during chaotic bouts of warfare that plagued Jinan in the Song Dynasty
. From this point on, her work took on a much more sorrowful and wistful tone. She died after a long illness. Of her extensive body of work, 17 lyric songs and 50 poems survive, as well as two works of prose, one of which is a study of Ci poetry.
Li Qingzhao Memorial Hall was built to honor her. The hall's pagodas, pavilions and studios are arranged in a style typical of Chinese compounds and were all opened to the public in 1956. Visitors can enjoy displays of her work, artifacts and stories from her life as well as viewing artworks dedicated to her, or spending time in the pretty courtyard planted with ornamental bamboo and pine.
Li's original house is situated behind the memorial hall, forming part of the complex. Walking around the corridors and bridges that Li once called home is a moving experience. Behind her house weeping willows gently brush a small bridge, under which a stream from the Zhouying Spring flows.