Zhao Yi (1727-1814) and His Caregivers: Observations from His Narratives on Aging

Clara Wing-chung Ho*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


    This paper utilizes the personal narratives of Zhao Yi (1727-1814), a much-celebrated and influential historian and writer, to review the nature of care this old scholar experienced at home.
    Many individuals in Qing China, both men and women, poured out their feelings toward aging in their personal writings. Among this large group of writers, Zhao Yi, who lived until eighty-eight sui through the ‘High Qing’ period, left behind an impressive quantity of age-associated narratives that cover a broad range of physical and psychological issues. These have been largely ignored in previous scholarship. While Zhao wrote about many undesirable alterations in his physical and mental state as he grew older, he also gratefully and/or playfully expressed his positive feelings toward aging. Like another famous contemporary writer, Yuan Mei (1716-1798), Zhao represented himself as someone who was extremely sensitive and responsive to the aging process and therefore reflected on a wide variety of issues about the process of aging. This paper selects an interesting dimension from Zhao’s rich corpus to examine his perceived relations with his caregivers, including his servants and some family members. Among other topics, it will discuss the written ‘agreement’ Zhao set up with his servants, his wild imaginings of a ‘wet nurse’ in his service, the sense of helplessness Zhao developed upon growing increasingly dependent on attendants, and the joy he experienced while being cared for by his grandchildren.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2023
    EventAssociation for Asian Studies Annual Conference 2023 - Boston, United States
    Duration: 16 Mar 202319 Mar 2023


    ConferenceAssociation for Asian Studies Annual Conference 2023
    Abbreviated titleAAS 2023
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    Internet address

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • History
    • Gender Studies


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