Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Santa Barbara

Women's Painting-Poetry of Late Imperial China

No data is associated with this publication.

This dissertation examines women’s voices and contributions to the Chinese painting-poetry tradition. Akin to the Western ekphrastic poetry, painting-poetry (tihua shi, or literally, “poems inscribed on paintings”) is a poetic subgenre concerning the verbal representation of visual images in pre-modern China. As an inter-artistic tradition combining poetry and painting—the two most revered forms of classical Chinese literature and art—painting-poetry flourished in the late imperial period, coincided with the rise of women’s literary and artistic culture. Previous scholarship has largely neglected the large number of painting-poems composed by Ming-Qing women, most of whom had the dual identities of poet and painter. The research of women’s painting-poetry leads to a string of questions: What is the significance of women’s painting-poetry? What is the relationship between women’s painting-poetry and the longstanding Chinese literary tradition? How does women’s painting-poetry cross both visual art and literary discourses? How do we perceive and interpret the distinct thematic concerns and gendered characteristics in women’s painting-poetry? How does women’s painting-poetry constitute a women’s literary subculture? In an attempt to explore the range of possible answers to these questions, this dissertation will first reconstruct the lost history of women’s painting-poetry from its emergence in the Tang (618–907) to its pinnacle in the Ming-Qing period, and then focus on Ming-Qing women’s gender intervention in the male-dominated poetic tradition through three chronological case studies of three representative women painter-poets—Li Yin, Xi Peilan, and Gu Taiqing—ranging from the late Ming (1368–1644) to the late Qing (1644–1911). The investigation shows that Chinese women not only participated in the painting-poetry tradition from its establishment, but also strategically employed the text-image interaction between painting and poetry in their painting-poems as a predominant means for self-expression, social networking, and immortalizing their talent and fame in late imperial China.

Main Content

This item is under embargo until October 21, 2024.