- Purchase/rental options available:
Invented largely for urban audiences and widely circulated across multiple media, the image of the female knight-errant attracted unprecedented attention among writers, readers, publishers, and officials in the first half of the twentieth century. This article focuses on three best-selling martial arts tales published in Republican China (1912–1949), paying particular attention to their martial heroines. It also explores what granted the female knight-errant character such enduring popularity and how the writers—Xiang Kairan, Gu Mingdao, and Wang Dulu—garnered the interest of their readers. As the author points out, martial arts novelists drew on a long and rich genre repertoire formulated before 1911 while taking into consideration contemporary debates regarding gender, thereby maintaining the female knight-errant figure as a relevant and compelling construct. More importantly, the author argues, through portraying their martial heroines in relation to family, courtship, and female subjectivity, martial arts novelists resisted the prevailing discourse on Chinese womanhood of their times while imagining female heroism.