Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (1 July 2016)
This volume completes Keith McMahon’s acclaimed history of imperial wives and royal polygamy in China. Avoiding the stereotype of the emperor’s plural wives as mere victims or playthings, the book considers empresses and concubines as full-fledged participants in palace life, whether as mothers, wives, or go-betweens in the emperor’s relations with others in the palace. Although restrictions on women’s participation in politics increased dramatically after Empress Wu in the Tang, the author follows the strong and active women, of both high and low rank, who continued to appear. They counseled emperors, ghostwrote for them, oversaw succession when they died, and dominated them when they were weak. They influenced the emperor’s relationships with other women and enhanced their aura and that of the royal house with their acts of artistic and religious patronage. Dynastic history ended in China when the prohibition that women should not rule was defied for the final time by Dowager Cixi, the last great monarch before China’s transformation into a republic.
Keith McMahon is professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Kansas. His books include Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liaoand The Fall of the God of Money: Opium Smoking in Nineteenth-Century China.