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Su Nü
- Qin Shi Bu #4
素女 1
琴史補 #5 2
No images yet of Su Nü3              
The name Su Nü has
numerous translations; here she is referred to simply as Su Nü.

Zhang Hua is sometimes said to have written in his Bowu Zhi that, "The Celestial Emperor (i.e., Yellow Emperor) caused Su Nü to play the five stringed qin; she played Yang Chun and Bai Xue." More commonly the early sources say she played them on a 50-string se.

Regarding the name of her qin, 廣都 Guangdu, I have yet to find further information.4

The phrase here in her biography, "History says", refers to Shi Ji Chapters 12 (Emperor Wu) and 28 (Feng and Shan Sacrifices, RGH II, p.40). The article calls Fu Xi 太帝 Tai Di.

The biography in Qinshi Bu is as follows:

Su Nü was a sacred woman of antiquity who understood yin yang and the Way of Heaven and was a great musician. When she played her qin called 廣都 Guangdu the warm winds would blow cold, white snow would fall in winter, luan birds would call out, phoenix birds would dance, and longevity mushrooms would blossom. History says (Fu Xi) ordered Su Nü to play a 50-string se zither. This made him sad so he forbade her to continue, but she wouldn't stop. So he split the se (in half), making a 25 string se. But Su Nü also excelled on this, so it was not just with qin music that she could make the world beautiful. Su Nü is more famously said to have written the first manual for sexual practices.5

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. 素女 Su Nü (no Wikipedia entry)
Su Nü is best known today for the use of her name in connection with traditional Chinese writings on sexual relations. One of the best books covering this subject is Douglas Wile, The Chinese Sexual Yoga Classics Including Women's Solo Meditation Texts (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992). It is quoted in several places below.

27924.11 (no image) says "古神女名 sacred woman of antiquity"; it then mentions three ways she was described. Of these, the third has received by far the most attention.

27924.12 素女方 Su Nü Fang (Prescriptions of Su Nü) says it is a book in one folio found in the Sui catalogue. Preserved in China, it is translated in Wile, pp. 94-100.

27924.13 素女經 Su Nü Jing (The Classic of Su Nü) says it was a book in one folio telling of "黃帝與素女有關房中術之問答,今收入雙美景闇叢書中 the Yellow Emperor having a discussion with Su Nü about the arts of the bedroom; (the book is) now included in Shuangmeijing'an Congshu (1903). It was apparently reconstructed by 葉德輝 Ye Dehui (1864-1927) based on documents he found preserved in Japan. It is translated in Wile, pp.85-94.

27924.xxx 素女妙論 Su Nü Miao Lun (Wondrous Discourse of Su Nü). This was apparently written in the Ming based on fragments preserved in Japan. It is translated in Wile, pp. 122-133.

A footnote on p.227 of Wile introduces Su Nü as follows (romanization changed, parenthetical comments and paragraph separations added):

Su Nü 素女 appears as goddess and sex initiatress in sexological works from the Sui to the Ming. Her name does not figure in the title of works on sexology listed in the bibliographic section of the Qian Han Shu but does in those of the Sui shu. Prior to this, she was portayed as a divine singer and musician during the time of the Yellow Emperor as noted in...." (Wile here mentions the references above then adds,) ".... In a commentary to the Shan hai jing, her name is linked with that of Hou Ji, god of gain, and hence of the cult of fertility. the Ming Sou shen ji casts Su Nü in the role of a river goddess, who assumes the form of a shell to help poor but virtuous people.

Apart from the Su Nü mi dao jing (素女秘道經 Secret way classic of Su Nü) and Su Nü fang (素女方 Prescriptions of Su Nü) listed in the Sui shu bibliography, Su Nü also is alluded to as sex initiatress in Zhang Heng's "Yue Fu," Xu Ling's "Da Zhou chushi shu" (答周處士書), and in the biography of Nü Ji (女几) in the Lie xian zhuan.

"I have chosen to render the name "Su Nü" in transliteration out of both prudence and a distaste for translating personal names. Maspero and Étiemble's "Fille de Simplesse," V.G.'s "Plain Girl." Schipper's "Lady Bright," Levy's "Woman Plain," Humana's "Forthright Female, H.V.G.'s "Plain-speaking Woman," Stephen Chang's "White Madame," and Needham's "Immaculate Girl" demonstrate the difficulty of achieving agreement even on the meaning of Su...."

There is some mention of Su Nü in a footnote here on sexual connotation of "qin strings".

2. Qin Shi Bu entry details
5 lines. The only source given is 蒓湖漫錄 Chunhu Manlu.

3. Image of 素女 Su Nü
There are many images of Fu Xi together with Nü Wa, but I have not found any showing him with Su Nü. Internet searches for images related to Su Nü turn up mostly sexual imagery.

4. 廣都 Guangdu
9683.217 廣都 mentions only place names.

5. Manual of sexual practices attributed to Su Nü
素女經 Su Nü Jing? See also 素女妙論 Su Nü Miao Lun. I have not yet straightened out the relation between these two or some other books connected to Su Nü. One might guess that the originals were lost and later "reconstructions" of it might have been given differing names.

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