2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226



Women’s Roles and Surnames: The Debate over Women’s
Biographies in Seventeenth-Century China

Jo-lan Yi

Department of History, National Taiwan University

In the early Qing dynasty, women’s biographies became the site of a scholarly battle. The struggle was over how to name the female subject: whether to identify her by her maiden name or to use her husband’s surname. At the heart of the dispute was the question of whether writers should emphasize women’s origins or stress the role of women as obedient and faithful wives. This debate represents a split in historical writing between those who wished to underscore women’s self-determination and those who wished to emphasize their obedience, and shows how gender questions influenced the writing of women’s biographies. This article reveals how Qing scholars dealt with the “woman question” by quoting and interpreting the ancient classics and histories. It also gives us a chance to review research on intellectual, ritual, and gender history in Qing China.


Keywords: surname, Mao Qiling, Feng Jing, Mao Jike, Chinese women’s biographies