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Women of the Conquest Dynasties

Women of the Conquest Dynasties: Gender and Identity in Liao and Jin China

Alan Johnson
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Women of the Conquest Dynasties
    Book Description:

    China's historical women warriors hailed from the northeast (Manchuria) during the Liao (907-1125) and Jin (1115-1234) dynasties. Celebrated in the Liao History, they were "unprecedented." They rode horseback astride, were good at hunting and shooting, and took part in military battles. Several empresses-and one famous bandit chief-led armies against the enemy Song state.Women of the Conquest Dynastiesrepresents a groundbreaking effort to survey the customs and lives of these women from the Kitan and Jurchen tribes who maintained their native traditions of horsemanship, militancy, and sexual independence while excelling in writing poetry and prose and earning praise for their Buddhist piety and Confucian ethics. Although much work has been devoted in the last few years to Chinese women of various periods, this is the first volume to incorporate recent archaeological discoveries and information drawn from Liao and Jin paintings as well as literary sources and standard historical accounts.

    Conquest women combined agency and assertiveness drawn from steppe traditions with selected aspects of Chinese culture such as ethics and literacy. Empress Chengtian led Liao armies to victory against the Song, successfully ran the state for thirty years during her son's reign, and enjoyed a lengthy and public liaison with her prime minister. Empress Yingtian, the wife of the Liao founder and his assistant in military affairs, famously refused to comply with the steppe custom of following one's husband in death; instead she cut off her right hand and placed it in the late emperor's coffin as a promise to join him later. These confident and talented women were rarely submissive in matters of sexuality and spouse selection, but they were subject to the restrictions of marriage and the levirate if widowed.

    The women of the northeast stand in vivid contrast to their counterparts in the south, where female identity was molded by a millennia of Confucian ethics and women were increasingly sequestered in the home and constrained by concepts of virtue.Women of the Conquest Dynastiesprovides new insights into the history of steppe patterns of feminine behavior and will reveal new areas of comparative study.

    27 illus., 2 maps

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6024-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction Colonial Space, Anglo-Indian Perspectives
    (pp. 1-45)

    In the 1880s, during his wanderings in the north of British India, the young Rudyard Kipling visited the sixteenth-century fort of Amber, in what was then called Rajputana (now Rajasthan), just outside Jaipur. Reporting for thePioneernewspaper based in Allahabad, Kipling drew intriguing conclusions based on his observations there:

    If . . . a building reflects the character of its inhabitants, it must be impossible for one reared in an Eastern palace to think straightly or speak freely or—but here the annals of Rajputana contradict the theory—to act openly. The crampt and darkened rooms, the narrow, smooth-walled...

  5. Chapter 1 “I Want to Send India to England”: The Aesthetics of Landscape and the Colonial Home
    (pp. 46-80)

    As the above epigraphs from the best-selling nineteenth-century writer G. O. Trevelyan and an anonymous 1852 traveler suggest, “home” was a constant companion of the English in India. They were variously homesick and homeward bound, and took pains to appoint their bungalows with Manchester cotton and London journals. Yet the associational power—indeed, the very meaning—of these items varied significantly depending on how long the traveler had been in India, and on whether he or she had determined to settle there. Interlopers in the nineteenth century, for instance, were never in doubt that England was home and India an...

  6. Chapter 2 Hills Kinder Than Plains?: Kipling’s Monstrous Hill Station
    (pp. 81-111)

    The Road that is so alluring to Mowgli and Kim, like the road in Corbett’s world that “runs for several miles due west through very beautiful forests,”¹ may induce in its travelers a sense of infinite possibility, but owes its existence to cities and military outposts and railway stations. The Road in this sense is not a winding and sometimes overgrown jungle pathway; it is, rather, a mythic stage for Homeric journeying, always with an eye toward home, whatever that might be. If in Kim’s eyes it is “a river of life” akin to the Buddhist Way, and therefore filled...

  7. Chapter 3 “Out of Bounds”: Clubs, Cantonments, Plains
    (pp. 112-137)

    If the hill station as a whole served as a site for transgressive behavior among Anglo-Indians, it was the station Club more specifically where the community most visibly acted out its ambivalent attitudes and aspirations. The Club was an intermediary space that figures prominently in colonial literature, including Kipling’s works. The words of George Orwell, who served as a policeman in colonial Burma, capture this well: “In any town in India the European Club is the spiritual citadel, the seat of British power, the Nirvana for which native officials and millionaires pine in vain” (because the British denied them entry).¹...

  8. Chapter 4 Savage City: Locating Colonial Modernity
    (pp. 138-162)

    In 1869, the well-known English journalist Walter Bagehot stated, “Savages copy quicker, and they copy better,” a comment that underscores the colonialist view that non-Europeans were masters of mimicry but not much else.¹ Homi Bhabha turns this on its head to show that Indians, for example, were able to exert a measure of control over the interplay between themselves and the British. In the preceding chapters, I have discussed how Anglo-Indians’ discursive negotiation of the apparent opposition between European and non-European outlooks adds another layer of complexity to an already complex web of relationships under colonialism. In this chapter, I...

  9. Chapter 5 Medical Topography in Flora Annie Steel’s On the Face of the Waters
    (pp. 163-205)

    A key feature of imperial Britain’s efforts to manage the topography of the Indian subcontinent was the focus on health and hygiene. If Edwin Chadwick’s and Henry Mayhew’s best-selling Victorian-era studies of London’s sanitary conditions and laboring population indicate the degree to which a growing English middle class was as concerned about moral decay as about disease, the small number of Britishers in the tropics was all the more obsessed with fear of contagion and “degenerescence.”¹ As much as nineteenth-century London’s sewers and slums made the city’s genteel communities anxious, India’s bazaars and “native towns” and jungles terrified British colonials....

  10. Chapter 6 The Engineers’ Revenge, the Age of Kali: Kipling’s Bridges and the End of Jungles
    (pp. 206-231)

    Far from the cantonment garden was an India that was just as important to the construction of Kipling’s Anglo-Indian homeliness: the India of immense engineering feats, particularly railway bridges and dams. These edifices were necessarily large in order to span rivers that dwarfed anything in Europe, and they seemed to require a new vocabulary of awe. As we will see in Kipling’s “The Bridge-Builders,” colonial reason holds sway in the form of engineering that principally intrudes upon the lair of that sleeping giant of a river, the Ganges. This story, which has attracted scholarly attention from various disciplines and is...

  11. Chapter 7 Man-Eaters of Kumaon and Jim Corbett’s Jungle Idiom
    (pp. 232-281)

    As powerful as they were, the tropes of the jungle and the garden could exert power only through British India’s idealization of individual labor, whether that labor was the Englishwoman in her bungalow or the Englishman on the hunt. The clearing of trees and animals, the management of domestic space, the mapping of a continent—all required work. Into the twentieth century, popular writers like Maud Diver and Flora Annie Steel published, respectively,The Unsung: A Record of British Services in Indiaand theComplete Indian Housekeeper and Cook,serious-sounding titles that sought at once to mythologize and demystify colonial...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 282-284)

    The preceding chapters have shown how various writers expressed their conflicted Anglo-Indian sensibilities by describing equally incompatible colonial spaces. It is important to recall that well before Anglo-Indian writers opened this vein of colonial irony, other writers, including many who had never been outside Europe, had begun to tap into the wellspring of this iconography in order to sustain their narratives. These earlier British narratives are filled with characters made credible by the associational power of their “Eastern” surroundings. Colonial spatiality, in other words, was at play in British literary texts long before its representation by Anglo-Indians, but the earlier...

    (pp. 285-302)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 303-316)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-318)