Reverie and Reality: Poetry on Travel by Late Imperial Chinese Women

Reverie and Reality: Poetry on Travel by Late Imperial Chinese Women


By (author) Yanning Wang

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  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Format: Hardback | 206 pages
  • Dimensions: 150mm x 231mm x 20mm | 431g
  • Publication date: 18 December 2013
  • Publication City/Country: Lanham, MD
  • ISBN 10: 0739179837
  • ISBN 13: 9780739179833

Product description

This is a study of Chinese gentry women's poems on the theme of travel written during the late imperial period (ca.1600-1911), when Chinese women's literature and culture flourished as never before. It challenges the cliched image of completely secluded and immobile women anxiously waiting inside their prescribed feminine space, the so-called inner quarters, for the return of traveling husbands or other male kin. The travel poems discussed in this book, while not necessarily representative of all of the women writers of this period, point to the fact that many of them longed to explore the world through travel as did so many of their male counterparts. Sometimes they were able to actualize this desire for travel and sometimes they were forced to resort to imaginary "armchair travel." In either case, women writers often used poetry as a means of recording their experiences or delineating their dreams of traveling outside the inner quarters, and indeed sometimes far away from the inner quarters. With its promise of adventure and fulfillment and, above all, a broadening of one's intellectual and emotional horizons, travel was an important, and until now understudied, theme of late imperial women's poetry.

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Author information

Yanning Wang is assistant professor of Chinese in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Florida State University.

Review quote

Reverie and Reality is a marvelous examination of Chinese women's poetry about travel, a neglected topic that Wang masterfully analyzes. Readers will enjoy the richness of the poetry translations and profit from the author's deep insights into the literary qualities of these poems. This highly readable scholarly study is an important contribution to understanding Chinese women's writing of the late imperial era. -- Harriet T. Zurndorfer, Leiden University Chinese women poets of the last few centuries of imperial China often complained that their social position (and their bound feet) limited their freedom to travel and broaden their experiences, reducing their poetry to rhymes on breeze and moon. Yanning Wang's wide-ranging monograph demonstrates that many women poets actually did have extensive travel experiences, some of them by visiting the scenic spots and temples around their hometowns, others by trekking through the length and breadth of China as they accompanied their male relatives to their official postings or escorted their bones back home for burial-in the last years of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) a few even started to travel beyond the Middle Kingdom. Many of the women poets who had no opportunity to travel widely indulged in "armchair travel" through China or visionary journeys through the realms of the immortals. This book is an important contribution to the scholarship on traditional Chinese women's poetry as it shows how women made use of the various chances offered to them and reflected on the landscapes and societies they encountered. -- Wilt L. Idema, Harvard University

Table of contents

Acknowledgements Introduction Part I: Reverie Chapter One: Recumbent Travel: Liberation and Limitation Chapter Two: Roaming as a Female Transcendent Part II: Reality Chapter Three: Women's Footprints beyond the Inner Quarters Chapter Four: A Manchu Woman's Short Excursions Chapter Five: Women's International Travels in the Late Qing Epilogue