I am happy to announce that I have a new journal article titled “Dye and Desire: The Problem of Purple in Jin Ping Mei cihua” published on CLEAR (Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, and Reviews). The article examines the curious material and cultural history of purple and dyes in the late Ming novel Jin Ping Mei cihua, late Ming society and fashion.
In Jin Ping Mei cihua, purple in different shades becomes fashionable among courtesans and women of gentry and merchant classes. Purple, which used to designate high official ranks and royalty from Tang to Song, was censored, downgraded, and diverted from the official sartorial hierarchy in the Ming. Offering a brief material and cultural history of purple dye, this article delineates how the women of Jin Ping Mei adopt purple to construct their professional and everyday personas and argues that dyeing and colors are central in the novel’s conception of the dynamics between the material world and the mind.