Gender, Ethnicity, and Empire in Late Imperial and Republican China
2: "Not Dreaming of Saddle and Horses, But Yearning for Beautiful Essays": The Writing and Identity of Manchu-Mongol Female Poet Naxun Lanbao
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 322B
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
Michigan State University, United States
Over the last thirty years, scholars have enriched our understanding of women’s lives in the Qing dynasty by analyzing Han Chinese women’s writings, particularly those from Jiangnan. Aside from a few pioneers (Mann, 1997; Idema, 2017), the lives and works of non-Han women have largely been neglected. Yet the unique political situation during the Qing fostered a considerable number of Manchu and Mongol female writers. This paper takes Naxun Lanbao (1824-1873)—an elite Mongol woman who grew up in Beijing with her Manchu grandmother and married a Manchu nobleman—to examine how a Mongol “talented woman” wrote, lived, and identified in the late Qing. Naxun Laobao’s writings were deeply entangled with her ethnic identity and Qing frontier policies; while she proudly celebrated her Mongol ancestry, she simultaneously called Mongolia a foreign territory, speaking on behalf of Manchu ruling power in support of a unified empire. Through a careful analysis of court documents including the Imperial Genealogy, and literary sources, we reconstruct Naxun Lanbao’s multi-ethnic family background and social networks, arguing that the Manchu-Mongol community played a dominant role in supporting her writing and shaping her identity, challenging the conventional interpretation that credits her literary achievement solely to the influence of Han Chinese culture. Centering Naxun Lanbao’s voice in the historical narrative, this research aims to further our understanding of Manchu-Mongol relations in the Qing by examining the life experience of a Mongol noblewoman under the Qing Dynasty’s marriage alliance policies and her complex identity as both an insider and outsider.