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Love martyrs and love cheaters at the end of the Chinese Empire

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Chapter Summary

Male subjection to female will is a core feature of fiction about prostitutes and male patrons in Shanghai brothels of the late Qing. The love story of the late-Qing brothel must in general be read with a deep consideration of historical roots, especially Ming and Qing motifs of heroic women and the notion of qing. This chapter translates qing as ?sublime passion,? which reflects the late-Ming scenario in which the supreme heroic figure is the remarkable, talented woman. It defines qing by looking back at the most famous Chinese love story since roughly the end of the eighteenth century, Dream of the Red Chamber, which ends unhappily, resulting in the production of numerous sequels attempting to repair the damage. The chapter ends with the figure of the savvy Shanghai prostitute, who emerges in the last two decades of the Qing as a new female star and remarkable woman.

Keywords: Chinese love story; Dream of the Red Chamber; heroic women; late-Qing brothel; Shanghai prostitute

10.1163/ej.9789004170193.i-448.32
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