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Androgyny in Late Ming and Early Qing Literature

Androgyny in Late Ming and Early Qing Literature

Zuyan Zhou
Copyright Date: 2003
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    Androgyny in Late Ming and Early Qing Literature
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6145-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION Androgyny Defined
    (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 destabilization of their gender status, traditionally a yin position, when they questioned decadent politics and conservative ideology. Viewing gender from both Chinese and Western theoretical perspectives, this study explores the strategies and rhetoric with which literati scholars appropriate the “symbolic female” for their own purposes and inscribe their own recalcitrant drives for political/ideological confrontation in their characterizations of...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Androgyny in Chinese Philosophy
    (pp. 7-14)

    Androgyny, an ancient concept, is deeply rooted in both Western and Chinese philosophies. In theSymposium, Plato, through Aristophanes, mentions the existence of three primordial races, one of which is made of the union between men and women. Although the united body is later split by God into halves of different sexes, each seeks the other, yearning for the original whole.¹ While the Judeo-Christian tradition promotes patriarchy, the androgynous ideal can be traced in religious stories outside offcial scripture.² The motif of androgyny abounds in Western creation myths and classic literature;³ it is also incorporated into modern theories such as...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Gender Ambiguity in Late Ming and Early Qing Culture
    (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,¹late Ming China witnessed a gradual disintegration of traditional gender roles in social life owing to its economic, political, and cultural changes. Flourishing commerce, a surplus of wealth, widespread education, a booming printing industry, rising individualism, prevailing hedonism, and the cult ofqingall contributed to the blurring of a traditional division between the two sexes. The growing tension between the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Plum in the Golden Vase A Prelude to the Androgyny Craze
    (pp. 47-68)

    In the late Ming literary arena, gender imperatives are probably nowhere more peremptorily challenged than inThe 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 Qing commentator Zhang Zhupo (1670–1698) vehemently alleged: “Jinlian is inhuman”(Jinlianbushi ren).² In traditional Chinese writings, Jinlian is virtually a byword for debauchery, malignity, and depravity; correspondingly, in Western criticism she is often referred to as a vampire,³ a succubus,⁴ and a demon. In Yenna Wu’s study of Chinese termagants, Jinlian is regarded...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Peony Pavilion A Paean to the Androgynous Ideal
    (pp. 69-94)

    The androgynous ideal is most passionately celebrated in Tang Xianzu’s masterworkThe 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. In preaching the revalorized value ofqing, Tang Xianzu affirms the deviation from orthodox maidenhood in Liniang’s characterization, a gender stand which is intrinsically related to his own defiant stance in political and ideological confrontation as a marginal man.

    As far apart as their social stations can be, Liniang and Jinlian are subjected to similar feminization...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Scholar-Beauty Romance Idealistic Expression of the Androgynous Vision
    (pp. 95-126)

    In the wake of Tang Xianzu’sPavilion, 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 historiography of the Han dynasty, yet its immediate predecessors remain Tang’sPavilionand Xu Wei’s dramas. The most treasured legacy it inherits from its precedents is a liberal outlook on human gender. In many ways the undercurrents of androgyny that we have traced so far surface and grow into a visible trend in this genre, where transvestism becomes a convention, the plum blossom a...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Peach Blossom Fan An Ambivalent Hymn to Political Androgyny
    (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 emasculated power center. So far we have only peripherally touched upon this issue, to which we now devote our close attention in the following study of theFan. Unfolding romantic love against political turmoil, Kong Shangren’s masterpiece presents the confrontation between two camps who hold different stances in the face of the national crisis in the last days...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Dream of the Red Chamber A Shattered Dream of Androgyny
    (pp. 155-198)

    To probe into the fictional world of theDreamis 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 Representative of the Republican commentary is Jing Meijiu’s observation: “Baoyu’s gentility takes after female bearing, whereas Tanchun’s resolution partakes of male carriage.”² The paradigmatic statement in contemporary criticism is made by Angelina Yee when she indicates that Baoyu occupies “the center of the feminine...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Conclusion: Androgyny as Literary Trend and Strategy in Fashioning Chinese Literati Identity
    (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 classicsThe Plum in the Golden VaseandThe Peony Pavilionthrough the scholar-beauty romances, to the Qing masterpiecesThe Peach Blossom FanandThe Dream of the Red Chamber. The trend of gender fluidity traced in late Ming/early Qing literature is unprecedented: no other time in Chinese history has witnessed so manynüzhong zhangfuin literary presentation. In light of the new historicists’ views of cultural production of texts, such a phenomenon is...

  13. APPENDIX Symbolic Values and Gender Associations of Some Flowers and Plants in Chinese Literature
    (pp. 211-214)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 215-282)
    (pp. 283-286)
    (pp. 287-312)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 313-324)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-326)