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The Sword or the Needle

The Female Knight-errant ("xia</I>) in Traditional Chinese Narrative


Roland Altenburger

This study focussing on narratives about female knights-errant ( nüxia) cuts along a thematic line in Chinese literary history, and thus seeks to contribute to understanding and appreciation mainly in three fields of inquiry: the formation of narrative subgenre; the literary representation of gender; and the particularities of the Chinese knight-errantry narrative. It traces the processes of textual collecting, editing, rewriting, and intertextual referencing by which narratives about female knights-errant were invented as, and forged into, a thematic sub-genre. The narratives about a character type who boldly transgresses gender boundaries are studied as an exemplary case for a general inquiry into the subversive significance of images of gender-bending strong female characters in the Chinese narrative tradition. Finally, the present study investigates into representations of the practice of Chinese knight-errantry, which includes assassination for social policing, private vengeance, and banditry.
Contents: Introduction: Xiaoshuo, Xia and the Literary Representation of the Female – Social Policing, Vengeance, Banditry: The Basic Themes of the Female Xia Tale in the Tang – Redressing Wrongs in Human Relations: Transformations of the Female Xia in the Song – Agencies of Order: Female Xia Lore in Qing-Dynasty Classical Tales – Immortal Swordswomen Ordering the World: An Early- and a Late-Qing Novel – The Female Xia in the Tangles of Romance: The Taming and Domestication of Shisanmei – Lü Siniang Assassinates the Yongzheng Emperor: Transformations of a Legend in Early-Republican Popular Fiction – Reappraisals of the Female Xia in Modern Urban Popular Fiction Around 1930.