The history of China in the nineteenth century usually features men as the dominant figures in a chronicle of warfare, rebellion, and dynastic decline. This book challenges that model and provides a different account of the era, history as seen through the eyes of women. Basing her remarkable study on the poetry and memoirs of three generations of literary women of the Zhang family—Tang Yaoqing, her eldest daughter, and her eldest granddaughter—Susan Mann illuminates a China that has been largely invisible. Drawing on a stunning array of primary materials—published poetry, gazetteer articles, memorabilia—as well as a variety of other historical documents, Mann reconstructs these women's intimate relationships, personal aspirations, values, ideas, and political consciousness. She transforms our understanding of gender relations and what it meant to be an educated woman during China's transition from empire to nation and offers a new view of the history of late imperial women.
List of Illustrations
Genealogical Chart of the Zhang Family and Their Collateral Kin
1 Jining, Shandong (1893–1895)
2 Tang Yaoqing, Guixiu (1763–1831)
3 Zhang Qieying, Poet (1792–after 1863)
4 Wang Caipin, Governess (1826–1893)
Epilogue. The Historian Says . . .
Zhang Family Chronology
Glossary of Names
Glossary of Terms
Appendix. Selected Poems and Song Lyrics
Susan Mann is Professor of History at University of California, Davis, and was president of the Association of Asian Studies 1999-2000. She is the author of Local Merchants and the Chinese Bureaucracy, 1750-1950 (1987) and Precious Records: Women in China’s Long Eighteenth Century (1997), which won the Joseph Levenson Prize. She is also coeditor of Under Confucian Eyes: Writings on Gender in Chinese History (UC Press, 2001).
“Wonderful . . . . An erudite and important contribution to the social history of nineteenth-century China. Yet it reads almost like a novel.”—Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
“[An] elegantly written and produced volume. . . . the first serious effort to move beyond poetic output to detail the lives and background from which this output emerged.”—Women's Review Of Books
“Mann’s focus on character brings out a vivid sense of place. . . . The hybrid form of The Talented Women of the Zhang Family is new and highly successful. It would make excellent required reading in courses on late imperial history, women’s history, and literature.”—Harvard Journal Of Asiatic Stds
“The book rewards careful reading both for its erudition and challenge to accepted modes of historical writing. . . . Highly recommended.”—K. E. Stapleton Choice
“Mann cleverly reconstructs the lives of women in the elite Zhang family of Changzhou.”—The China Beat Blog
"There is absolutely nothing remotely like this book in the history of late imperial women. [An] immensely important book."—Gail Hershatter, author of Women in China's Long Twentieth Century
"A masterful work."—Lynn Hunt, coeditor of Beyond the Cultural Turn
John K. Fairbank Award, American Historical Association
Finalist for the 2008 Kiriyama Prize, Pacific Rim Voices