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Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Gu Taiqing 顧太清 (1799-1877) is one of the most famous and prolific female writers in the late Qing. In this thesis, I focus on her poems and lyrics on three important subjects, self-portrayals, plum blossoms, and Qingfengge 清風閣 (Clear Breeze Pavilion), in her two poetry collections, Tianyou geji 天遊閣集 (Collected Poems of Heavenly Travels Studio) and Donghai yuge 東海漁歌 (Songs of the Fisherman of the Eastern Sea), in order to advance the current scholarship on this female author and Ming-Qing women’s writings and reveal the uniqueness of Gu’s poetry. My study addresses how she represents herself, recounts her life experiences, and engages in the poetic tradition established by men. By examining her voices and images embedded in her poems, I argue that she creates her own expressions of female voices as an elite woman, a mother, and a female companion for her friends and her husband through the incorporation of her life experiences, both inside and outside her inner quarters. Most female figures portrayed by male poets are desired, static, subordinate, and longing for their absent lovers in their boudoir. Differentiating from the common women’s image, Gu shows her literary creation and women’s subjectivity by taking an active role, as opposed to a passive one. She describes a self-contented life and creates a delightful atmosphere in the spatial setting of her inner quarters. She also writes about her activities outside her boudoir and narrates her travel experiences as a female poet in her poems, in which she constructs her image as a subject that appreciates nature and is emotionally attached to her family. Moreover, my study discovers the approaches that she takes to negotiate between her reputation as a talented poet and her image as a learned lady, given the high moral standard expected from the late Qing elite women. Constructing her image associated with Confucian morality, she highlights her dedication to womanly learning and suggests that women’s literary talent and virtue are reconcilable.


First Advisor

Elena Suet-Ying Chiu

Second Advisor

Zhongwei Shen

Third Advisor

Zhijun Wang