China Beat Archive



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January 14, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright January 14, 2009. Used by permission.


Note: these books appear in no particular order since all are excellent.

1. Joan Judge, The Precious Raft of History: The Past, the West, and the Woman Question in China. Stanford University Press. Focusing on the so-called “woman question” (funü wenti) of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Judge re-examines China’s turn-of-the-century pursuit of modernity through analysis of biographies of notable women that illustrate Chinese approaches to their own history and to the Western world as mediated through Japan.

2. Susan Mann, The Talented Women of the Zhang Family. University of California Press (2007). Mann cleverly reconstructs the lives of women in the elite Zhang family of Changzhou from the Taiping Rebellion through the Boxer Uprising and demonstrates that the oft-maligned “talented woman” (cainü) of the late imperial period was directly linked to the oft-celebrated “new woman” (xinnüxing) of the Republican era.

3. Anne Walthall, ed. Servants of the Dynasty: Palace Women in World History. University of California Press. The two articles on women in the Song and Qing courts appear alongside articles on palace women in Nigeria, Mexico, France, Korea, Japan, and the Mughal and Ottoman empires, to mention but a few. This expansive collection, edited by UC Irvine’s ownAnne Walthall, affords the first comprehensive review of the women who served in royal courts and palaces around the world, and thereby offers a welcome correction to our androcentric understanding of monarchies.