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Lamenting The Dead: Women's Performance Of Grief In Late Imperial China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter of literati women's poems of mourning draws on the authors' research into the performance culture of Chinese women, particularly the laments of the women of coastal Nanhui, formerly a region within the borders of Suzhou prefecture in prosperous Jiangnan. Ming women in their poetic laments sought to emulate conventional mourning genres composed by men, but their very positionality as bereaved mothers, daughters and widows meant that their poetic compositions remained irredeemably "female" in popular perception. Since ancient times, women had participated in choreographed weeping and wailing at funeral ceremonies and occasions of commemoration of the dead. Poetic laments often contain the word ku in the title or the poem proper. Ku is typically translated as "crying" or "weeping" but in the canonical works relating to funerals, ku generally means "wailing". Poems of mourning appear in many guises in compilations of women's writings from the late imperial period.

Keywords: lamenting the dead; late imperial China; women's poems of mourning



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