Herstory: Historical Works by Women in Imperial China

Project: Research project

Project Details


Works on history written by women in imperial China have not previously been the subject of systematical and thorough scholarship. The writing and reading of history seems to have been a male-monopolized enterprise in imperial China. There is only one woman historian included in a collective biography of Chinese historians (Zhang 1984). In a widely circulated dictionary of Chinese historians, which offers a total of 2,643 entries, merely 6 entries are dedicated to women (Qiu 1990). Among these 6 women, only 2 lived entirely in the imperial era.

This is the first project to rediscover women's under-represented voices in Chinese historiography. The investigator would like to put forth that female scholars in different dynasties did produce historical works, no matter how minimal the total number compared with the huge quantity produced by male historians.

The investigator proposes to conduct research on women-authored books and short writings on history in imperial China. She is of the opinion that a thorough examination of women's views on different aspects of history and a multi-angled comparison with men's perspectives would certainly sketch a different picture of the past, even though the total output of historical works by women was relatively limited. The venture of historical writing was certainly dominated by male scholars in the past. However, by appropriately placing women back into the historical scene, we could gain a more balanced understanding of how people in the past recorded and viewed history. We would be able to come across ambitious and interesting arguments presented by women. By going through their works, we could witness how women in the past integrated the public and private spheres, offered unique female perspectives on historical events, engaged themselves in debates on central problems in historiography, and brought up family-oriented and daily-life-based viewpoints to challenge conventional assumptions. In the long-term, this project will add new knowledge to the fields of gender history and historiography.
Effective start/end date1/10/1330/09/15


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