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Servants of the DynastyPalace Women in World History$
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Anne Walthall

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780520254435

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520254435.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 20 May 2022

Gender and Entertainment at the Song Court

Gender and Entertainment at the Song Court

Chapter:
(p.261) 13 Gender and Entertainment at the Song Court
Source:
Servants of the Dynasty
Author(s):

Beverly Bossler

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520254435.003.0013

The extraordinary story of Emperor Zhenzong and Empress Liu reveals much about the interaction of gender, pleasure, and power at the Chinese court. Although Empress Liu was unusually successful in parlaying her entertainment skills into political power, she was far from unique. Yet entertainers—especially female entertainers—were highly anomalous figures at the court during the Song dynasty of China: they fell outside (or in between) regular categories of court women; they moved freely between the court and the outside world; they were among the most despised of social groups, but they circulated among the highest reaches of Song society. They were deployed as symbols of power and prestige, and invoked as signs of decadence and decline. The power of entertainers to attract imperial attention, together with the helplessness of the outer court in the face of such attraction, is nowhere more evident than in the biographies of two women who entered the court as entertainers and rose to become empresses of the realm: Empress Liu and Empress Yang.

Keywords:   Empress Liu, Empress Yang, China, entertainer, gender, pleasure, power, Song dynasty, Chinese court, court women

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