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A Married Life in Seventeenth-Century China: A Concubine and Her Times

Friday, April 24, 2020, 12:00 pm
Prof. Jun Fang, Huron University College
Humanities Building Room 354

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This presentation recounts the life story of Dong Xiaowan (1624-51), a talented and determined woman during the Ming-Qing transition. It begins with a brief examination of Dong’s family background, upbringing, and early experience as a registered courtesan, and then goes on to discuss Dong’s persistent and eventually successful pursuit of freedom of her singing girl bondage through marriage to the renowned essayist Mao Xiang (1611-93) as his concubine. The focus of the talk is Dong’s role in the Mao household during the nine-year period from 1642-51 as a secondary wife, finance manager, food connoisseur, and assistant to her husband’s literary pursuit. The presentation ends with a rebuttal of the claim that Dong was forcibly taken by the first Qing emperor Shunzhi (1638-61) as his imperial consort and an examination of the popular narrative of Chinese concubines in imperial times presented by the leading historians of Chinese women.

story of dong xiaowan

Jun Fang received his PhD in East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto. He is Professor of History at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario. His recent publications include China’s Second Capital – Nanjing under the Ming and The Romance of a Literatus and His Concubine in Seventeenth-Century China. Learn more

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