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Publication Date


First Advisor

Sujane Wu

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


East Asian Languages and Cultures


Women, Virtue, Talent, Lat Imperial China, Chen Yun, Xi Peilan, Liu Shi (Liu Rushi), Poetry, Six records of a floating life, Yuan Mei, Gentry women, Courtesans, Women writers, Travel


According to a saying used by scholars in Late Imperial China, “a woman is virtuous only if she is untalented.” This idea caused scholars of the time to debate whether a woman belonged to the kitchen or to the writer's study. Scholars’ opinions were split between those who believed that talent and virtue were incompatible in women, and those who defended the compatibility of both, and who believed they were, in fact, mutually reinforcing. This study investigates and critically analyzes three female writers of Late Imperial China – Chen Yun, Xi Peilan, and Liu Shi – and explores the strategies by which they successfully claimed both virtue and talent. Moreover, these women are examples of how by having one trait (virtue or talent), they managed to acquire the other one. At the same time, they remained worthy in the eyes of the society and were recognized as talented years later. Each chapter is a close study of the life and interpretation of each woman's embodiment of talent and virtue in comparison to her society's definitions.


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65 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 60-65)