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Lady Avengers in Jin He’s (1818–1885) Narrative Verse of Female Knight-Errantry

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image of Frontiers of History in China

Jin He 金和 (1818–1885), a pioneering poet of mid-nineteenth century China, wrote in a colloquial style strongly influenced by the ballad tradition. Jin’s style was prose-like and broke all the structural limitations of earlier poetry in order to create formal innovations, while at the same time experimenting with new subject matter. Liang Qichao 梁啟超 (1873–1929) and Hu Shi 胡適 (1891–1962) considered Jin He and Huang Zunxian 黃遵憲 (1848–1905) to be the major poets of the nineteenth century. Jin had a major impact both on other late nineteenth-century poets and on the “Poetic Revolution” that led to the rise of modern Chinese literature. However, his verse has been largely ignored ever since. Among the most striking contributions Jin made to the literary transition in the nineteenth century was his innovation in presenting the female knight-errant 女俠 (nüxia). This invented image of the female knight-errant reflected a new tradition of women’s voices in the literary works of his time, and had a great impact on the representation of swordswomen in modern literature. This paper examines how the image of nüxia in Jin’s writing is distinct from those found in past poetry, how the female knight-errant in Jin’s works inverts conventional gender norms, and how Jin’s female knight-errant image is both connected with and distinct from those in other literary forms.


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