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Who Are the Most Beautiful Women of China? —The “One Hundred Beauties” Genre in the Qing and Early Republican Eras

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Established in the late imperial era, “one hundred beauties” (baimei) genre selected and portrayed one hundred beautiful women in Chinese history often through three cultural artifacts: woodblock print portraits, biographies, and poems. This paper takes as its focus the anthology Gujin baimei tuyong 古今百美 图咏 (Illustrated biographies of and poems on one hundred beauties of the past and the present, 1917), which has not received scholarly attention before. Bringing together collections of old and new-style beauties, the anthology is a showcase of the genre straddling two centuries. The transformation of the genre, as reflected in the Gujin baimei tuyong, complicates a simplistic distinction between tradition and modernity while enriching our understanding of the changing representations of women.


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