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Reviews

Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579-1724. By Liam Matthew
Brockey. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007. Pp.
xii+496.

(Liam Matthew
Brockey)

(D. E. Mungello)

(Sino-centrism)

(1562-1633) (1565-1630)
(1557-1628) (Matteo Ricci, 1552-1610)
(Andrius Rudomina, 1596-1631)
Journey to the West

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(George H. Dunne, 1905-1998) (Generation of Giants: The Story


of the Jesuits in China in the Last Decades of the Ming Dynasty)

(Emmanual Dias Snior, 1559-1639)


(ratio studiorum)

(Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43


B.C.)

(Alexandre Valignani, 1538-1606)

(Michele Ruggieri, 1543-1607)

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Reviews

(Nicholas Longobardi, 1559-1654)


(Claudio Acquaviva, 1543-1615)

(Motos Orders)

(Catholic
Reformation)

(1506-1582)

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The Beauty and the Book: Women and Fiction in Nineteenth-Century China. By
Ellen Widmer. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006. Pp. xiv + 407.
Ann Waltner, Professor, Department of History, University of Minnesota
Ellen Widmers The Beauty and the Book: Women and Fiction in NineteenthCentury China is, among other things, a good read. It is a good enough read so I read it
in one sittingto be sure, the seat I was sitting in was on an airplane enroute from Taipei
to Los Angeles, but the fact that I read it cover to cover does speak to the way the book
is organized around a central compelling question and the ways in which Widmer marshals
and evaluates evidence to help us to think about the question. The question is about women
as readers and writers in late imperial China, and, reduced to its simplest form, is about
why women did not write fiction in China prior to the late nineteenth century. We have
abundant records of women poets throughout Chinas past, but there seem to be no extant
novels by women prior to the very late Qing. Widmers detective instincts are put to good
use in finding materials to help us think about this question. Her work helps us think
about women and fiction, about literary production, about the history of the late Qing,
and, finally, about comparison.
Absences are never easy to explain, and an exploration of the question why
women did not write fiction is made more difficult by the fact that it is always possible
that women wrote fiction that was not preserved. The epigraph at the head of the books
first chapter by the nineteenth-century anthologist Wang Duanshu (1621-ca.1685)
notes the difficulties of preserving even poetry by women. Wang writes that word of
the inner quarters does not reach the outside and goes on to say of the poems Some
get lost in war, some are burned in imperial book burnings, some are suppressed by
old-fashioned fathers and brothers, some are destroyed by unfilial sons and grandsonstoo
many obstacles [for me] to mention (p. 2). These obstacles could doubtless have
pertained to fiction as well as prose. Why fiction, once written, might not be preserved,
is an interesting question (which also illuminates issues of gender and the literary world)
but it is not the same question as why women did not write. Widmer makes productive
use of thinking of these two questions in tandem.
One of the questions which lie behind this book is how the nineteenth century
flourishing of womens writing differs from the earlier flourishing in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. In this work, as in her earlier work, Widmer is interested in the
conditions in which particular genres of literature flourishin the materiality of textual
production. She notes the conjuncture of two important events in Chinese literary history
in the sixteenth centurywomens poetry goes public and the novel develops. The two
facts are, she sensibly suggests, related and are connected to the rise of publishing in
the sixteenth century. One of the conceits she uses to imagine the difference is to conjure
a womans bookshelf in 1670 and again in 1830 and contemplate the differences. There
are two big differences: anthologies of poetry and fiction would have been present on
the later bookshelf (p. 153). Widmer argues that what gave the early nineteenth century
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Reviews

its new look were changes in fiction, women, and commercial publishing (p. 153) and
much of the book is devoted to examining these three strands. She shows that in the
nineteenth century we see intensified networks and more extensive mentoring of women
than we saw earlier (p. 157).
While there is no single answer to Widmers question about the reasons women
didnotwrite,acentraltenetofherargumentisthetransformationsinreadingbrought
aboutbythenovelHongloumeng .ShecharacterizesmuchofChinesefiction
beforeHongloumengasrambunctious(p.7),notthesortofthingonewouldwant
toallowguixiu ,theladiesoftheinnerchambers,toread.ShewritesItisno
exaggeration to claim that Honglou meng single-handedly changed the relationship
between women and fiction (p. 154). Honglou meng has heroines that a female reader
might identify with; it was a new kind of novel which produced a new kind of reading.
We knowitproducedanewkindofreadingbecausethesenewreaderswroteabout
whattheyread.WidmerdocumentsthewaysinwhichHongloumengseemstohave
deepened the range of ci poetry by women (p. 151). We see a whole complex range
ofreactionsofwomenreadersofHongloumeng.JinYi (adiscipleofYuanMei
[1716-1798])wroteapoemaboutreaderlyidentificationwiththenovelthatId
like to cite in full. The poem is Written on a Cold Night Waiting for Zhushi [her husband],
Who Does Not Return, and Reading Honglou meng chuanqi:
Cloudiness pervades the snow with a penetrating chill.
Twisting and turning incense disappears on an agate plate.
I wait for you whove not yet returned; then abandoning my daydream, I get up.
No means to dispel sorrow, I borrow a book to read.
Their feelings run extraordinarily deep.
Their souls can hardly stand such exertion; they risk their lives.
Even the toll of tears seems not quite enough.
On second thought, what has this to do with me? (pp. 141-142)
The denial, the second thought, makes the identification between Jin Yi and the characters
in Honglou meng quite clear.

One of the appeals of Honglou meng is the ways in which even we as modern
readers do identify with the heroines, ways in which they seem real to us. If I may be
forgiven a personal anecdote, years ago when I wrote an article on Honglou meng, a
colleague criticized an early draft of the article, saying I was writing about Lin Daiyu

as if she were a real person. His criticism was a serious one and a caution about
beingattentivetothedemandsoffictionalitywhenwewriteaboutfiction.Myfirst
response to him was to respond by saying, well, she is a realperson. This border between
the fictional and the real is a troubling and productive one to examine, and is well


The article is On Not Becoming a Heroine: Lin Dai-yu and Cui Ying-ying, Signs 15.1
(Autumn 1989): 61-78.
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articulated in the poem by Jin Yi cited above. It is also evident in the Honglou meng ying
, the sequel Widmer deals with at greatest length, where autobiographical
elements intertwine with the clearly fictional elements (p. 202).
The sequels to Honglou meng that Widmer discusses have women-centered plots
and show Daiyu taking over the leadership of the family (Hou Honglou meng )
or Baochai leading an army (Honglou fumeng ). They suggest, in
Widmerswords,animpliedreadershipofguixiuandotherwomenwhoyearnedfor
more agency in their lives. (p. 235)
One of the thorny issues Widmer must confront in looking at the sequels to Honglou
meng is the fact that the gender of authors is not always transparent. Fiction was often
written under pen names. In general I find Widmers careful analysis of how we might
think about the gender of these unknown authors compelling, though at certain points
a reader might want to raise objections, as for example when she uses a detailed description
oftheexaminationsystemasevidencethatthewritermusthavebeenmale(p.230).
Could a woman novelist not have learned about the examination system from reading,
indeed from reading a novel? Indeed, Widmer is careful to point out that elite women
sometimes step out of their guixiu shoes (p. 229). My point here is not to argue with
Widmer about the gender of Haipu zhuren , but simply to suggest how carefully
she makes the point, how she underscores mixed signals and tells us everything we
need to know to evaluate her conclusions.
WidmersstorydoesnotbeginwithresponsestoHongloumeng.Someearly
womenwritershadastrongsenseofwhotheiraudiencemightbe.YunZhus
(1771-1833)poetry anthology Guochao guixiu zhengshi ji named as
itspotential readers Mongol wives of imperial rank, talented Hami women, Tusi female
scholars, and seaside fishwives (p. 170). Even if this is wild hyperbole, it still tells us
much about who the Yun Zhu imagined her readers to be, and that the range of imagined
readers was not restricted to Han Chinese women of the upper classes, the guixiu who
had been the staple of the earlier female literary renaissance. Other female authors showed
a strong sense of the materiality of their literary production. Hou Zhi (1764-1829)
notes the connection between the reading habits of women in the inner quarters and the
market in her tanci Jingui Jie when she writes as long as guixiu read
this over and over, there will certainly be booksellers ready to transmit it on demand
(p. 86). In the preface to the same text, she notes that while she began writing to amuse
her mother-in-law, Nowadays I hear my manuscripts have increased the price of paper.
(p. 86) The book is replete with anecdotes like this that give life to our imaginings of
nineteenth century women as readers and writers, contemplating both the pleasure of
their mothers-in-law and the price of paper.
One of the many merits of the book is the way Widmer lays bare her method
she lays out her assumptions, she asks questions, she shows us the evidence, she shows
us her reasoning, she even alerts us to possible flaws in her reasoning. She shows us what
we can and cannot know, and she draws us along with her as she makes erudite speculations
about how we might push the barriers of our knowledge. This book will be useful for
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Reviews

students (and not just those interested in women and fiction in the nineteenth century) as
a methodological guide for the ways in which it shows what can and cannot be known.
The book sensibly and carefully pushes us to conclusions that we might not otherwise
have reached. Indeed, it provides a kind of instructions for reading Chinese fiction of
its ownhow to proceed with asking questions when we are not quite sure of the answers.
One of the lessons of this book is its implicit injunction that we should not stop asking
important questions just because answers to them dont lie close to the surface. The careful
mode of argumentation is a model for how we can move from what we know for certain
to what wed like to know.
After having given us a terrific book which is richly suggestive about why women
did not write novels, in a provocative afterword, Widmer turns the question on its head.
She is influenced both by Dipesh Chakrabarty, whose cautions about Europe as an
implicit standard she takes very seriously, and by Ian Watt (1917-1999), whose discussions
of the rise of the novel in Europe have been taken as an implicit yardstick for literary
development in many works on China, including (in subtle and interesting ways) her
own. (She resistsWattatmanypoints,butisnotwillingtoletgoofthecomparative
purchase he might offer). Because even the English word novel is problematic when
applied to Chinese xiaoshuo , Widmer briefly suggests that if we expand our
investigation of womens writing to include tanci (particulary xiaoshuo tanci), then the
question of why women did not write novels becomes moot: they did. But this is a strategy
she quickly abandons; the genres are too different (one is prose, one is poetry, for
example)andconflatingthemanalyticallyrunstheriskofblurringthingswhichwe
would not want to blur. While arguing for looking at Chinese fiction on its own terms,
she does acknowledge the utility of comparison when she writes that the interiority
that developedinwomenwhoreadthismasternovel[Hongloumeng]maynotbeso
different from the individualism Watt describes. (p. 290) She then calls for a genuine,
evenhanded comparison of the traditions of fiction in China and Europe, perhaps along
thelinesof theprojectenvisionedbyFrancoMoretti,whichexplicitlyde-centersthe

European novel. Widmers work will be important for any future comparative projects
which seek to expand the capaciousness of how we regard the novel.
My quibbles are few, and stem mainly from my own readerly greediness rather
than any flaws in the book itself. For example, Id like to know more about the illustrations,
which all come from an illustrated edition of Honglou meng first published in 1879. The
illustrationsthemselvesoften,butnotalways,containthenamesofthefiguresthey
feature, but Widmer nowhere discusses them. The use of illustrations from the one text
serves as a nice conceit, which binds the book togetherthe centrality of Honglou meng
to the argument about women as readers is underscored by the centrality of the illustrations
of the book. But the reader would like to know more about the individual illustrations.
Much of the book is speculative. But it is careful, erudite speculation, which


Morettis massive two-volume work The Novel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007)
appeared after Widmers book was in print.
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expands what we know about women and writing in the nineteenth century. It contributes
to a growing body of scholarship which brings careful feminist attention to the social and
culturalworldsofthenineteenthcenturySusanMannsTheTalentedWomenofthe

Zhang Family is another such textwhich will change how we view the ways in which
women andmenstructuredtheirdailyandimaginativelivesinthelastcenturyofthe
Qing empire. Read this book, and assign it to your students.

(Saneto Keishu,
1896-1985) (1920-2006) Marius Jansen (1922-2000)

New Horizons in the Study of Modern Sino-Japanese


Relations: Focusing on Key Persons

Susan Mann, The Talented Women of the Zhang Family (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2007).
ii-iii
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(?-1909)

(Terao Toru, 1859-1925)


(Fukushima Giichi, 1867-1947)

(conference
proceeding)

(Mori Kaku,
1882-1932)

(Kishida Ginkou,
1833-1905) (Kuwaki Genyoku, 1874-1946) (Shibusawa
Eiichi, 1840-1931) (Shiraiwa Ryuhei, 1870-1942)
(Naitou Konan, 1866-1934) (1828-1897) (1848-1905)
(1873-1929) (1877-1927) (1882-1938) (1855-1926)
(1853-1926)

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ix

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22

87

(1879-1960)

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(G. William
Skinner, 1923-2008)
(Walter Christaller, 1893-1969)

179-181
181-189

236-239

54
4 1996 3 117-123

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(1857-1942)

1975 396-418
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(Nishida Kitaro, 1870-1945)


(Mitsui Koushi, 1883-1953) (Minoda Muneki,
1894-1946)

(Leopold von Ranke, 1795-1886) (Heinrich


von Treitschke, 1834-1896) (Friedrich Meinecke, 1862-1954)
(Maruyama Masao, 1914-1996) (Hiraizumi Kiyoshi,
1895-1984)

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(Suzuki Shigetaka, 1907-1988) (Nishitani Keiji, 1900-1990)


(Kousaka Masaaki, 1900-1969) (Kouyama Iwao, 1905-1993)

1940
1941-46 4-7

2007 4 2007
11 27-55

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103

104

123

125

1989
1992
1995
PHP 2001
2003
233 2007 4 50-63
40
2008 9 135-152
16 2009 12 47-61
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(Kuwaki Genyoku, 1874-1946)

(Wilhelm
Maximilian Wundt, 1832-1920)

141

143

10


(Minobe Tatsukichi, 1873-1948)

10

2006
2007
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185

185

191

202-203

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229

11


249

11

1943

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12

13


12

13

1999

2008
2004

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(Tanabe Hajime, 1885-1962)


14

15

16

14
15

16

1995173

1991
2002
2007

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17

(Shinran,
1173-1263)

(Kiyozawa
18

Manshi, 1863-1903)

(Miki Kiyoshi, 1897-1945)


(Tosaka Zyun, 1900-1945) (Hunayama Shinichi, 1907-1994)
17

18

2009 181-228

1992 14 1-191
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(Kawakami Hajime, 1879-1946) (Kakehashi Akihide,


19

1902-1996)

(Inoue Kaoru, 1836-1915)


(Samejima Naonobu, 1845-1880) (Mori Arinori, 1847-1889)
(Terajima Munenori, 1832-1893)

(1868)

(1869)

19

2000
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(1872)
20

(1870)

(1871) (Iwakura Tomomi, 1825-1883)

(Imamura
Warau, 1846-1891)
(Gustave mile Boissonade, 1825-1910)

(1873)
(Soejima Tanetomi, 1828-1905)
(1874) (1875)
21

(1876)

(Ueno Kagenori, 1845-1888)

20

21

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Aoki Shuzo, 1844-1914

(1879)

(international comity)

(1880)

(Inoue Kowashi, 1843-1895)

(1882)

(Hanabusa Yosimoto, 1842-1917)

(Yamagata Aritomo, 1838-1922)

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(Hachisuka Mochiaki, 1846-1918)

(1881)
(1883)
161

(1884)
22


(Ito Hirobumi, 1841-1909) (1823-1901)

(Hara
Takashi, 1856-1921)

(1886)

(Tani Tateki, 1837-1911)

(1890)
22

(Takezoe Shinichiro, 1842-1917) (1851-1894)

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(1894) (Mutsu Munemitsu,


1844-1897)

(Komura Jutaro, 1855-1911)

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(Yanagiwara Sakimitsu, 1850-1894)

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(Fujimura Michio, 1929-1999)


23

(Nagai
Hideo, 1925-2005)

24

(Okubo Toshimichi, 1830-1878)

25

169
26

164
162

23

24

25

26

1967 3 21
1990
11-12

366367
1996 12 1997 1 1-2224-41

2 1994 40
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27

28

(Sisido Tamaki, 1829-1901)


29

27
28

29

1997 132

1974 117
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30

31

30
31

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