Journal articles


“What Hangs On a Hairpin: Inalienable Possession and Language Exchange in Two Marriage Romances,” Ming Studies, vol. 84, (September 2021).

This paper discusses the figuration of the purple jade hairpin as inalienable possession in the Tang author Jiang Fang’s (792­–835) marriage romance “Huo Xiaoyu’s story” and the Ming playwright Tang Xianzu’s (1550–1616) dramatic adaptation of the story, The Purple Hairpins (1595). Examining how the hairpin’s materiality and symbolism intersects with the tradition of classical poetry and marriage laws, the paper shows opposing poetics—the critical and the lyrical—of the two marriage romances. Whereas the selling of the hairpin in the Tang romance indicates the loss of Huo Xiaoyu’s identity and the culture of romance—a true social order of exogamy based upon language exchange, the circulation of her hairpins in The Purple Hairpins authenticates her identity and the culture of romance.

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“Dye and Desire: The Problem of Purple in Jin Ping Mei cihua.Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, and Reviews (CLEAR), Vol 42 (December 2020), pp.53-68.

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.

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“Siam as Chinese Utopia: Overseas Chinese, Colonialism, and Race in the Seventeenth-Century Chinese Novel The Sequel to the Water Margin,” Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 108: 2 (October 2020), pp.1–16.

This article considers how Siam became the locus of utopian imagination for the Chinese cultural elite residing in China and overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia in the 17th century. The settlement of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and the kingdom of Ayutthaya proffered sources of imagination for Chen Chen (1615–1670) to compose the novel The Sequel to the Water Margin (Shuihu houzhuan). He channeled ideas and ideals on free trade, refuge, colonialism, and Han Chinese racialism into a story on Chinese pirates’ conquest of Siam. The emergence of such utopian imagination was bound up with late Ming ideals of passion, love, and self-invention and the 17th-century Chinese discourse of oceans and pirates.

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“The Emaciated Soul: Four Women’s Self-Inscriptions on Their Portraits in Late Imperial China,” NAN NÜ: Men, Women, and Gender in China, June 2020, 22:1, pp.36-69

This article studies the emaciated self-images in four Ming Qing women’s self-inscription poems on their own portraits. These women similarly describe their self-images as qiaocui (emaciated), alluding to the legendary girl poet Feng Xiaoqing. Inherently ambivalent, qiaocui could imply sexual and erotic appeal, the virtuous mind of a recluse, sickness, ordinariness, melancholy, as well as aging and death. The article argues for the importance of the rhetoric of qiaocui and the topoi of Feng Xiaoqing in the self-inscriptions by the women in Hangzhou and the broader Jiangnan region as a medium to construct their female subjectivity. This article suggests that, initially a persona publicly circulated in the late Ming, the topoi of Xiaoqing became to define the women’s personhood in private spaces in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

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“Java in Discord: Unofficial History, Vernacular Fiction, and the Discourse of Imperial Identity in Late Ming China (1570-1620),” positions: asia critique, (2019) 27 (4), 623-652.

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This essay examines how in times of rampant “Japanese” piracy and Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea, four Chinese literati composed unofficial histories and vernacular fiction on China’s foreign relations with Java during Yuan and early and mid-Ming times. This article argues that the cultural memory of Sino-Java exchange enabled the authors to write narratives with personal anxieties and nationalistic sentiments. Collectively, the four authors’ narratives represent various images of the Ming Empire, revealing the authors’ deep apprehension of the Mings’ identity, their political criticism of the state, and their divergent and even self-conflicted views toward maritime commerce, immigrants, and people of different races.