The Fragrant Companions
By Li Yu, translated by Stephen Roddy and Ying Wang
Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2022
The Fragrant Companions is the most significant work of literature that portrays female same-sex love in the entire premodern Chinese tradition. Written in 1651 by Li Yu, one of the most inventive and irreverent literary figures of seventeenth-century China, this play is at once an unconventional romantic comedy, a barbed satire, and a sympathetic portrayal of love between women. It offers a sensitive portrait of the two women’s passion for each other, depicts their intellectual pursuits and resourcefulness, and celebrates their partial triumph over social convention.