Military Women as Described by Male Literati: The Late-Ming Warrior Shen Yunying (1624-1660)
Hsiao-Ching Hsieh (Department of History, National Taiwan University)
The present paper focuses on writings authored by male writers on the late Ming warrior Shen Yunying (1624-1660), as well as other military women during the Ming-Qing transition. It explores their gender reversal specifically as revealed by the differences in writing about military women versus chaste women. Moreover, this paper considers how male literati expressed their general expectations of military women through these forms of writings.
This paper begins with discussion on the epitaph and biography of Shen Yunying, as written by Mao Qiling (1623-1713), which did not conform to largely practiced rules concerning writing on women. This is shown in regards to the title of the work and the specific naming of the subject. In addition, the clansmen of Shen made an exception to the general rule of excluding women born into the clan by listing Shen Yunying within the lineage when compiling their genealogy. These two forms of special treatment, seen here to be permitted by men, demonstrate the subjectivity and particularities of Shen as a military woman. Secondly, by examining the writings on Shen Yunying and other contemporary military women, this paper argues that the remarkable feats performed by these military women on the battlefield crossed gender boundaries; being described by men, however, this “crossing” still obeyed the patriarchal systems and traditional Confucian values, and was rationalized through virtues such as loyalty, piety and chastity. The subjectivities of these military women were thus not able to be freely displayed, given that their depiction is under the control of male writers.
Shen Yunying, military women, gender crossing, female biography, Confucian values