History as Leisure Reading for Ming-Qing Women Poets

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In this paper, I present some first person narrations written by Ming-Qing women poets who occasionally treated history as their leisure reading. In line with another project that I am currently undertaking to rediscover the works of female historians in imperial China, I have been searching for women-authored books, prose, and poems on historical themes.1 It has come to my attention that although some women poets commented on history in very serious tones, similar to those of most male writers, others chose to deliver their remarks in a more relaxed manner. Some women poets explained to readers that they were composing verses on historical themes when they had spare time, when they felt like it, or whenever it pleased them. Such reading behavior is very close to our present understanding of leisure reading. Hence, we may argue that among the thousands of women poets who lived in the era governed by China’s last two dynasties, some of them enjoyed the privilege of picking up history as leisure reading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-64
Number of pages38
JournalHsiang Lectures on Chinese Poetry
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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