The Power of the Phoenix Crown: Imperial Women and Material Culture in Late Ming China

  • Author / Creator
    Song, Yuxian
  • My thesis holds that Ming imperial women used political opportunity and agency to formulate a strategy of building relationships with male officials and inner court residents. Other than feminine virtues, the extent to which they succeeded in the strategy decided their reputations in the historical records. My project presents Empress Dowager Li (1545-1614) and Imperial Concubine Zheng (1565-1630) as representative cases of Ming imperial women. Through a scrutiny of both official and private records, I present their life cycles and examine their political opportunity, agency, social relationships and social activities. In addition, I present evidence of material culture and daily life in the Ming court, a perspective not seen in the official records. Material evidence illuminates a fuller picture of imperial woman’s life. Through their clothes we are able to look at their creativity in court fashion. The material evidence and records of their social activities reveal the everyday life of imperial women and the variety of ways in which social and political communication took place between men and women of the inner court. In analyzing the life of Empress Dowager Li and Imperial Concubine Zheng as daughters, wives, and mothers, we observe them as individuals and as women making connections with male officials in the outer court and female residents in the inner court. The course of their lives shows both opportunity and restrictions imposed on Ming imperial women.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of History and Classics
  • Specialization
    • History
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Jennifer Jay (Department of History and Classics)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Lisa Claypool (Department of Art and Design)
    • Ryan Dunch (Department of History and Classics)
    • Jennifer Jay (Department of History and Classics)
    • Beverly Lemire (Department of History and Classics)