The Talented Women
of the Zhang Family
by Susan Mann
University of California Press, USA
In this refreshingly new and solidly grounded study, author Susan Mann, Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, brings into vivid focus the 19th-century lives of three generations of Chinese women from one extended family. Living in an area of southeastern China known for women's learning, the women of the Zhang family were talented in poetry, calligraphy, and other arts, which they employed in conventional as well as unconventional contexts. China scholars will value and general readers will enjoy this engagingly written history of an era as seen through women's eyes.
The history of China in the nineteenth century usually features men as the dominant figures in a chronicle of warfare, rebellion, and dynastic decline. This book challenges that model and provides a different account of the era, history as seen through the eyes of women. Basing her remarkable study on the poetry and memoirs of three generations of literary women of the Zhang family--Tang Yaoqing, her eldest daughter, and her eldest granddaughter--Susan Mann illuminates a China that has been largely invisible. Drawing on a stunning array of primary materials--published poetry, gazetteer articles, memorabilia--as well as a variety of other historical documents, Mann reconstructs these women's intimate relationships, personal aspirations, values, ideas, and political consciousness. She transforms our understanding of gender relations and what it meant to be an educated woman during China's transition from empire to nation and offers a new view of the history of late imperial women. (Source: ucpress.edu)
Susan Mann is Professor of History at University of California, Davis, and was president of the Association of Asian Studies 1999-2000. She is the author of Local Merchants and the Chinese Bureaucracy, 1750-1950 (1987) and Precious Records: Women in China's Long Eighteenth Century (1997), which won the Joseph Levenson Prize. She is also coeditor of Under Confucian Eyes: Writings on Gender in Chinese History (UC Press, 2001).
"There is absolutely nothing remotely like this book in the history of late imperial women. [An] immensely important book." — Gail Hershatter, author of Women in China's Long Twentieth Century
"A masterful work." — Lynn Hunt, coeditor of Beyond the Cultural Turn
Read a review of The Talented Women of the Zhang Family in WaterBridge Review.
(Author photo is from Mann's page on the UC Davis website.)