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Reformer, Saint, and Savior: Visions of the Great Mother in the Novel Xingshi Yinyuan Zhuan and Its Seventeenth-Century Chinese Context

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The theme of the Great Mother emerges as a leitmotif in the seventeenth-century vernacular Chinese novel Xingshi yinyuan zhuan. This paper analyzes the portrayal of the protagonist Mme. Chao as a mother-figure, her transformation from a virtuous widow to a local leader, and her posthumous apotheosis, while placing her representation within the literary and historical context of the novel. The characterization of Mme. Chao as a reformer, saint, and savior in times of disaster dramatizes a millenarian ambience that appears to have prevailed during the last years of the Ming dynasty, reflecting the apprehension of the apocalypse and the search for a new kind of moral leadership.

Affiliations: 1: DURHAM UNIVERSITY


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