The Precious Raft of History

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This book reveals and interprets the rich diversity of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Chinese approaches to their own past and the modern West through the lens of the woman question. Writers and activists who engaged in debates over this question variously appropriated biographies of women-a genre with a 2,000-year history in China and a new political salience in the early twentieth century. Judge maps the ways these individuals used historical Chinese and modern Western women’s biographies to promote competing visions of female virtue, talent, and heroism, and, ultimately, to advance competing evaluations of China’s ritual teachings, cultural heritage, and national future. She concludes by applying the hermeneutics of historical change she develops for the turn of the twentieth century to the turn of the twenty-first century, as women’s issues continue to foreground Chinese conceptions of the past, the West, and the nation.

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