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Androgyny in Late Ming and Early Qing Literature

Zuyan Zhou

Publication Year: 2003

The frequent appearance of androgyny in Ming and Qing literature has long interested scholars of late imperial Chinese culture. A flourishing economy, widespread education, rising individualism, a prevailing hedonism--all of these had contributed to the gradual disintegration of traditional gender roles in late Ming and early Qing China (1550-1750) and given rise to the phenomenon of androgyny. Now, Zuyan Zhou sheds new light on this important period, offering a highly original and astute look at the concept of androgyny in key works of Chinese fiction and drama from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The work begins with an exploration of androgyny in Chinese philosophy and Ming-Qing culture. Zhou proceeds to examine chronologically the appearance of androgyny in major literary writing of the time, yielding novel interpretations of canonical works from The Plum in the Golden Vase, through the scholar-beauty romances, to The Dream of the Red Chamber. He traces the ascendance of the androgyny craze in the late Ming, its culmination in the Ming-Qing transition, and its gradual phasing out after the mid-Qing. The study probes deviations from engendered codes of behavior both in culture and literature, then focuses on two parallel areas: androgyny in literary characterization and androgyny in literati identity. The author concludes that androgyny in late Ming and early Qing literature is essentially the dissident literati's stance against tyrannical politics, a psychological strategy to relieve anxiety over growing political inferiority.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

During my graduate study I became fascinated with the emerging trend to apply feminist theory in the exploration of Chinese literati identity, which was starting to reorient Western scholars’ perspectives in Ming-Qing study. Out of this interest I launched into a full-scale gender study of canonical works for my dissertation, which ultimately evolved into the present...

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Introduction: Androgyny Defined

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pp. 1-6

The gender deviation in late-imperial Chinese literature has in recent decades stimulated growth of scholarship in the sinological field, to which the present inquiry aims to add a new dimension. Scholars’ mounting political dissidence and thriving individualistic impulses during this period engendered...

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Chapter 1. Androgyny in Chinese Philosophy

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pp. 7-14

Androgyny, an ancient concept, is deeply rooted in both Western and Chinese philosophies. In the Symposium, Plato, through Aristophanes, mentions the existence of three primordial races, one of which is made of the union between men and women...

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Chapter 2. Gender Ambiguity in Late Ming and Early Qing Culture

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pp. 15-46

Although the founder of the Ming dynasty was a strong military man and a vigorous ruler—the very personification of masculinity—and two empresses of the early Ming composed conduct instructions for women in an attempt to reinforce orthodox norms,1 late Ming China ...

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Chapter 3. The Plum in the Golden Vase: A Prelude to the Androgyny Craze

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pp. 47-68

In the late Ming literary arena, gender imperatives are probably nowhere more peremptorily challenged than in The Plum in the Golden Vase (1596).1 Its heroine, Pan Jinlian, the murderess of her two husbands, shatters the traditional ideal of womanhood with such a vengeance that the precocious...

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Chapter 4. The Peony Pavilion: A Paean to the Androgynous Ideal

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pp. 69-94

The androgynous ideal is most passionately celebrated in Tang Xianzu’s masterwork The Peony Pavilion (1598),1 where a chamber-cloistered girl, Du Liniang, having passed away for lovesickness, is miraculously restored to life once she has banished her maiden reserve to pursue love as a ghost...

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Chapter 5. Scholar-Beauty Romance: Idealistic Expression of the Androgynous Vision

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pp. 95-126

In the wake of Tang Xianzu’s Pavilion, the Chinese literary arena witnessed the emergence of a legion of scholar-beauty romances, which project a more idealistic vision of gender freedom.1 Critics have traced its embryo to the...

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Chapter 6. The Peach Blossom Fan: An Ambivalent Hymn to Political Androgyny

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pp. 127-154

The late Ming literati’s antagonism to the “concubine” identity was partly attributable to the lack of masculinity of the ruling clique, consequently gender features prominently in literary characterization when scholars turn to presenting the political conflict between the virilized subjects and the ...

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Chapter 7. The Dream of the Red Chamber: A Shattered Dream of Androgyny?

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pp. 155-198

To probe into the fictional world of the Dream is to venture into a realm of sex/gender (con)fusion, where males and females often deport in manners deviating from their prescribed genders, hence are mistaken for the opposite sex. This prominent sex/gender aberration has fascinated scholars for centuries and has engendered several full-scale inquiries in recent decades.1...

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Chapter 8. Conclusion: Androgyny as Literary Trend and Strategy in Fashioning Chinese Literati Identity

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pp. 199-210

In our study of the canonical works of late Ming/early Qing literature, we have examined the theme of androgyny and other related motifs from the Ming classics The Plum in the Golden Vase and The Peony Pavilion through the scholar-beauty romances, to the Qing masterpieces The Peach...

Appendix. Symbolic Values and Gender Associations of Some Flowers and Plants in Chinese Literature

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pp. 211-214

Notes

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pp. 215-282

Glossary

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pp. 283-286

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 287-312

Index

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pp. 313-324


E-ISBN-13: 9780824861452
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824825713

Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Chinese literature -- Qing dynasty, 1644-1912 -- History and criticism.
  • Androgyny (Psychology) in literature.
  • Chinese literature -- Ming dynasty, 1368-1644 -- History and criticism.
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