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Domesticating Romantic Love during the High Qing Classical Revival

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The Poetic Exchanges between 
Wang Zhaoyuan (1763-1851) and Her Husband 
Hao Yixing (1757-1829)

image of NAN NÜ

This study examines the Heming ji (Collection of singing in harmony), which comprises the sometimes surprisingly intimate poetic exchanges between the woman intellectual Wang Zhaoyuan (1763-1851) and her husband Hao Yixing (1757-1829), both renowned in their lifetimes as classical “evidential research” (kaozheng) scholars. The paper seeks to demonstrate the transformation of the cult of qing (romantic love) in the High Qing period. It argues that, as the centrality of courtesans in literati culture died out with the Ming-Qing dynastic transition, gentry women came to represent the positive cultural values of qing through the increasingly fashionable idea and practice of companionate marriage. In this process, the cult of qing that characterized the subversive late Ming literati culture, of which courtesan culture was an important part, was not obliterated by the High Qing classical revival as is often assumed; rather, it was domesticated, ritualized, transformed into conjugal love, and arguably, integrated into the High Qing “familistic moralism.” The paper also explores how the concept of qing, in the narrow sense of love between man and woman, was expanded into this couple’s shared passion and ambition to serve the state and empire.

Affiliations: 1: Bucknell


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