“Dye and Desire: The Problem of Purple in Jin Ping Mei cihua,” Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, and Reviews (CLEAR), December 2020.
In Jin Ping Mei cihua, purple in different shades becomes fashionable among courtesans and women of gentry and merchant classes. Purple that 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 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.
“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, October, 2020.
This article considers how Siam became the locus of utopian imagination for Chinese cultural elite residing in China and the Chinese diaspora settled in Southeast Asia in the seventeenth century. Based upon the kingdom of Ayutthaya (1351–1767), the Chinese literatus Chen Chen’s (1615–1670) novel The Sequel to the Water Margin channels ideas and ideals on free trade, colonialism, and Han Chinese racialism into a story on Chinese pirates’ conquest of Siam.
“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.
“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.
Read it here: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7726916
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.