Visualising Ethnicity in the Southwest Borderlands

Gender and Representation in Late Imperial and Republican China


This book explores the mutual constitutions of visuality and empire from the perspective of gender, probing how the lives of China’s ethnic minorities at the southwest frontiers were translated into images. Two sets of visual materials make up its core sources: the Miao album, a genre of ethnographic illustration depicting the daily lives of non-Han peoples in late imperial China, and the ethnographic photographs found in popular Republican-era periodicals. It highlights gender ideals within images and develops a set of “visual grammar” of depicting the non-Han. Casting new light on a spectrum of gendered themes, including femininity, masculinity, sexuality, love, body and clothing, the book examines how the power constructed through gender helped to define, order, popularise, celebrate and imagine possessions of empire.

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Jing Zhu, Ph.D. (2018), University of Edinburgh, is CCKF postdoctoral fellow of history at the University of Warwick.

List of Figures

Introduction: The Chinese Imperial Model in the Southwest Borderland: Gender, Visuality and Transitions
 1 Observational Practices: Detractor, Defender and Truth
 2 Ethnographic Illustrations in Chinese History: Long Tradition, Multiple Genres and Various Pictorial Practices
 3 Ways of Seeing: a Visual Grammar of Gender, the Power of Representation
 4 Empire, Visuality and Structure of Feelings: Engendering the Ethnic Minorities in China’s Southwest Borderland
 5 Imperial Context: Native Chieftain System, Gaitu Guiliu and Miao Rebellions
 6 Wartime China: the Reproduction of Borderland Images
 7 Chapter Organisation
1 Gender Inversion and the Power of Representation: Imagining and Visualising Ethnic Minority Women’s Masculinity
 1 Women in Power: the Fancy of Images of “Nüguan 女官 (Female Government Official)”
 2 Interpreting “Nanyi Nülao 男逸女勞 (Men Relax, While Women Work)” as “Nangui Nüjian 男貴女賤 (Men are Exalted, while Women are Humble)”: Defaming Women’s Work through Space
 3 The Most Respected Women in China: Refashioning Images of Non-Han Women at Work in Republican China
 4 China’s Domestic Feminists?: Reinterpreting Non-Han Gender Roles
 5 The Essentialness of Work: “Women Question” and Family Status
 6 Concluding Remarks
2 Dancing in the Moonlight: Fashioning Sexuality of Non-Han People
 1 Naked Female Bodies: Images of the Duanqun Miao and Shuibai Yi
 2 Chuzi Shuangfu 處子孀婦 (the Virgin and the Widow): Copulation and Chastity
 3 Dancing under the Moonlight: Marriage Customs, Rites and Sexual Regulation
 4 Encountering Sexuality: Enlightenment Plans and the Diversity of Representation
 5 Refashioning Moon Dancing: The Freedom of Lian’ai 戀愛 (love)
 6 A Romantic Land with Freedom: Ze’ou 擇偶 (Choice), Lihun 離婚 (Divorce) and Taohun 逃婚 (Escape before the Wedding Night)
 7 Freedom, Xing 性 and Women’s Desire
 8 Concluding Remarks
3 Yiguan Zhuangmao衣冠狀貌 (Clothes, Hat, and Physical Body): Materialising and Symbolising Human Variations
 1 Delineating a Typical Non-Han Face in the Southwest: Black Skin, Deep Eyes, White Teeth and Hooked Nose
 2 Highlighting Xianzu 跣足 (Bare Feet)
 3 The Hierarchy of Dressing: the Representation of the Non-Han Subject in Simple and Casual Clothes
 4 Republican Anthropometric Photography: New Styles and the Ambiguity of Racial Differences
 5 Conceptualising and Visualising an Ethnographic Body: the Implications in China
 6 Ambiguous Attitudes: How Should the Statistics of Body Measurements be Interpreted?
 7 Shengzhuang 盛裝 (Festival Costumes): New Ways of Visualising the Non-Han
 8 Collecting, Exhibiting and Preserving Non-Han Material Culture
 9 Concluding Remarks
4 Imperial Images? Rethinking Miao albums and Ethnographic photography
 1 Zhengqi Haoyi爭奇好異(Competing over Eccentricity and Chasing Exoticism): the Anxiety of Pleasure
 2 Multiple Viewers: the Growing Market for Popular Ethnography
 3 Making Ethnographic Truth? The Paradox of Copying and the Participation of Artists in the Market Place
 4 Resurrection in Republican China: Collection, Preservation, Reproduction and New Styles
 5 Beyond Identity: Commercial Ethnographic Photography
 6 Concluding Remarks

Appendix: Table of Miao Albums with Collection Date and Original Collector
All interested in the representation of ethnic minorities in late imperial and Republican China, and anyone concerned with the intersections of visuality, gender and empire.