Heroines of the Qing

Exemplary Women Tell Their Stories

Binbin Yang

  • Published: 2016. Paperback March 2019
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Literary Studies; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 248 pp., 20 bandw illus., 2 charts, 2 tables, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Heroines of the Qing introduces an array of Chinese women from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who were powerful, active subjects of their own lives and who wrote themselves as the heroines of their exemplary stories. Traditionally, "exemplary women" (lienu)-heroic martyrs, chaste widows, and faithful maidens, for example-were written into official dynastic histories for their unrelenting adherence to female virtue by Confucian family standards. However, despite the rich writing traditions about these women, their lives were often distorted by moral and cultural agendas. Binbin Yang, drawing on interdisciplinary sources, shows how they were able to cross boundaries that were typically closed to women-boundaries not only of gender, but also of knowledge, economic power, political engagement, and ritual and cultural authority. Yang closely examines the rhetorical strategies these "exemplary women" exploited for self-representation in various writing genres and highlights their skillful negotiation with, and appropriation of, the values of female exemplarity for self-empowerment.
Binbin Yang is assistant professor of Chinese at the University of Hong Kong.

"This is the first book to examine exemplary women's own accounts of their lives, moving from biographical to autobiographical accounts. Heroines of the Qing is original and significant."
-Xiaorong Li, author of Women's Poetry of Late Imperial China: Transforming the Inner Chambers

"A daring, path-opening book. The integration of narration and analysis makes the book accessible to the lay reader while speaking to specialists in history and literature."
-Dorothy Ko, author of Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding

"Binbin Yang's pathbreaking study of Qing women writers' self-empowerment as female exemplars takes the field of women's culture in late imperial China to a whole new level. In addition to exploring women's previously well-known talent in poetry, Yang engages with a diverse range of texts by women in unexpected genres - such as genealogy writing, medical treatises, and inscriptions to autobiographical paintings - to reveal the lived realities of these writing heroines. A stunning achievement."
-Grace Fong, author of Herself an Author: Gender, Agency, and Writing in Late Imperial China

Note to Readers
1. Breaking the Silence: Cases of Outspoken Exemplary Women
2. Visualizing Exemplarity: Women's Portraits and Paintings for Self-Representation
3. Staging Family Drama: Genealogical Writing as Ritual Authority
4. Enacting Guardians of Family Health: From Exemplary Wife to Reformer
Chinese Character Glossary

"This study is not only of interest to students of traditional Chinese women's literature. It ranges over fields as widely apart as print culture, art history, social history and medical history. In each of these fields it shows a far more assertive participation of women than is commonly assumed. . . . Equally relevant to the students of Republican history as to the students of Qing history. The book is very well written and throughout a pleasure to read."
-Wilt L. Idema, Nan Nu: Men, Women, and Gender in China