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Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China

Hsieh Bao Hua

In the long course of late imperial Chinese history, servants and concubines formed a vast social stratum in the hinterland along the Grand Canal, particularly in urban areas. Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China is a survey of the institutions and practice of concubinage and servitude in both the general populace and the imperial palace, with a focus on the examination of Ming-Qing political and socioeconomic history through the lives of this particular group of distinct yet associated individuals. The persistent theme of the book is how concubines, appointed by patriarchal polygamy, and servants, laboring under the master-servants hierarchy, experienced interactions and mobility within each institution and in associating with the other. While reviewing how ritual and law treated concubines and servants as patriarchal possessions, the author explores the perspectives available for individual concubines and servants and the limitations in their daily circumstances, searching for their “positional powers” and “privilege of the inferiors” in the context of Chinese culture during the Ming-Qing time period.

For a list of the book's tables and their sources, please see: http://www.wou.edu/wp/hsiehb/
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Lexington Books
Pages: 396Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7391-4514-2 • Hardback • June 2014 • $116.00 • (£75.00)
978-0-7391-9840-7 • Paperback • March 2017 • $54.99 • (£37.95)
978-0-7391-4516-6 • eBook • June 2014 • $51.99 • (£34.95)
Hsieh Bao Hua is professor of history at Western Oregon University.
Chapter One: The Dimension of Human Trafficking
Chapter Three: Domestic Servants, Office Attendants, and Apprentices
Chapter Four: Booi Elite and Harangga
Chapter Six: Qing Serving-Women and Eunuchs
Chapter Seven: Ritual Canon and Imperial Harem
Hsieh’s book examines concubinage and servitude in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, first among Chinese society in general and then in the imperial court…. In this study, however, Hsieh ambitiously expands her discussions to include the Qing, which means necessarily addressing the issues involving not only Han Chinese, but also Manchu and other ethnic groups, especially men and women in the banner system. Moreover, she addresses not only concubinage but a wide variety of servitude involving women, men, and eunuchs…. In fact, some of the best discussions in the book come from Hsieh’s comparison of how the differences between the Ming and Qing palace women would have contributed greatly to understanding the functioning of the inner courts of the two dynasties and the political power struggles that affected the entire country.
Nan Nü: Men, Women and Gender in China