In this groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, Maram Epstein identifies filial piety as the dominant expression of love in Qing dynasty texts. At a time when Manchu regulations made chastity the primary metaphor for obedience and social duty, filial discourse increasingly embraced the dramatic and passionate excesses associated with late-Ming chastity narratives.
Qing texts, especially those from the Jiangnan region, celebrate modes of filial piety that conflicted with the interests of the patriarchal family and the state. Analyzing filial narratives from a wide range of primary texts, including local gazetteers, autobiographical and biographical nianpu records, and fiction, Epstein shows the diversity of acts constituting exemplary filial piety. This context, Orthodox Passions argues, enables a radical rereading of the great novel of manners The Story of the Stone (ca. 1760), whose absence of filial affections and themes make it an outlier in the eighteenth-century sentimental landscape. By decentering romantic feeling as the dominant expression of love during the High Qing, Orthodox Passions calls for a new understanding of the affective landscape of late imperial China.
Orthodox Passions is not a mere must-read for scholars who are interested in emotion and family relations in Qing literature. It is a book ‘foundational,’ to borrow Epstein’s evaluation of filial piety in premodern China, to new scholarship that restores intergenerational relationships to the center of scholarly treatment of an empire that claimed itself as ‘ruling all under Heaven by filial piety’.
Though focused on the high Qing, it serves as a masterful rendition of an entire tradition…Epstein has executed a radically novel and engaging approach that should spur us and our students to new and deeper realizations.
A pioneering study of filial piety…Epstein argues, linguistically and culturally, romantic love had its European discourse; in contrast, filial piety or filial love was the primary emotional bond in traditional China, which was critical to people’s identity formation…It further advocates a new way of rereading the eighteenth-century texts by decentering romantic feeling as the dominant expression of love during the High Qing, and calls for a new understanding of the affective landscape of late imperial China.
- 384 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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