Memories of China
Cai Wenji was born in 177 AD. She was the beautiful daughter of Cai Yong (132 - 192 AD), a noted historian and poet who was good friends with Dong Zhuo and Cao Cao. A writer and poet in her own right, she followed her father's footsteps, even mastering the playing of the guqin, the Chinese zither. In 195 AD, amid the turmoil of the late Han dynasty, she was kidnapped by the marauding Xiongnu, and spent twelve years as a hostage in barbarian territory. She bore the Xiongnu chieftain two sons, but never stopped yearning for her beloved China. Finally, when Cao Cao became prime minister in 207, he remembered her plight and paid the heavy ransom. She was allowed to return to her homeland, but had to leave her sons behind.
Upon her return, she found that most of Cai Yong's essays on the history of the Eastern Han period had been lost due to ravages of war. From memory, she compiled four hundred volumes of her father's writings, to produce the comprehensive Dongguan Hanji.