This article examines the emaciated self-images of four women's self-inscription poems on their own portraits. They are Huang Hong (early seventeenth century), Xi Peilan (1760-after 1829), Tan Yinmei (fl. mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth century) and Zheng Lansun (1819-61). These women similarly describe their self-images as qiaocui (emaciated), alluding to the legendary girl poet Feng Xiaoqing. Inherently ambivalent, qiaocui could imply sexual and erotic appeal, the virtuous mind of a recluse, sickness, ordinariness, melancholy, as well as aging and death. The article argues for the importance of the rhetoric of qiaocui and the topoi of Feng Xiaoqing in the self-inscriptions by women in Hangzhou and the broader Jiangnan region as a medium to construct their female subjectivity. This article suggests that, initially a persona publicly circulated in the late Ming, the topoi of Feng Xiaoqing came to define the women's personhood in private spaces in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
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© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020
- Emaciated persona
- Feng Xiaoqing