The Joy and Frustration of Aging: Self-narratives of Men and Women in Qing China

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    This is the first comprehensive project to investigate into the first-person, gender- inclusive human voices on their aging experiences in Qing China (1644-1912), a significant period in which the country's population grew at a rapid pace and the figure doubled up several times, thus generated the biggest aged population ever existed in imperial China. Employing self-narratives contained in thousands of collected works and anthologies, this project will take a close look at how the elderly in Qing China shared their aging process and how they voiced their joy, challenges, and frustration in the later years of their lives. Aging is a universal experience of the mankind, and everyone who lives long enough will have to undergo different degrees of physical decline before death. Every organ and every part of the body from head to toe may become problematic; all kinds of psychological uneasiness may arise too. How did our ancestors face the aging reality? Did they mainly complain about all the discomfort they suffered, or did they actively work out practical solutions to ease their minds? Did men and women react to aging similarly or differently? This project will offer answers to these questions. Various kinds of negative mood triggered by aging as well as the positive spirit that acknowledges the pleasure of aging contained in the self-narratives of Qing writers will be studied.

    History is not the monopoly of a single gender, class, or age group. Without the voices of the elderly, history is never complete. Efforts of restoring the elderly to history will lead to a more liberal and inclusive reading of the human past. This project offers an opportunity for us to explore the wisdom of our ancestors in their own words and on their own terms. It also invites us to give thoughts to how much the society has advanced by looking into the past. As human life span continues to increase generation by generation, the modern world is universally stepping into an aged society. In this connection, applying historical perspectives to rethink the issues of aging would be timely and productive. Furthermore, this project throws light on using age as a category of historical analysis and calls for more scholarly attention to be paid to the history of the seniors, riding on the previous fruitful scholarship in the history of childhood that also advocates age as an analytical lens.
    Effective start/end date1/11/2031/10/23


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