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Taking Flight: Poverty, Sickness And Death

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the last phase of the courtesan's journey through the Shanghai marketplace. Whether it is through torture, abuse or disease, the end of the line approaches fast for these courtesans, and is always presented as the pathological destiny of the sexed and oversexed woman. It first focuses on her poverty and the reasons why these novels often stress the impossibility of social and economic redemption for this category of women. Secondly, the chapter explores various representations of disease, either as a way of salvation or as karmic retribution. Then, it analyzes death within the brothel and its implications. Finally, the chapter discusses the other and less conventional paths through which the courtesan might leave the world of the 'fiery keng' behind her; this concludes the fictional journey of a courtesan in the world of late Qing vernacular fiction.

Keywords: death; poverty; Qing vernacular fiction; sickness

10.1163/ej.9789004179783.i-238.22
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