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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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Qing Imperial Women: Empresses, Concubines, and Aisin Gioro Daughters

Qing Imperial Women: Empresses, Concubines, and Aisin Gioro Daughters

(p.137) 7 Qing Imperial Women: Empresses, Concubines, and Aisin Gioro Daughters
Servants of the Dynasty

Shuo Wang

University of California Press

During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), when the Manchus ruled China, palace women played a significant role in maintaining Manchu ethnic identity and constructing a multiethnic empire. They can be divided into two categories: imperial consorts (empresses and concubines), who entered the palace through marriage, and Aisin Gioro daughters, who received imperial membership by birth. Starting in the eighteenth century, imperial consorts were selected exclusively from the hereditary military units known as banners. As for imperial daughters, the emperors usually married them to Manchu high officials or to the elite of other ethnic groups in order to buy support and cooperation. Imperial daughters thus played a significant role in shaping Qing territory and stabilizing Manchu rule. When examining imperial marriage from the perspective of the interaction of gender, ethnicity, and social status, one can see that in taking wives the Qing court was more concerned with ethnicity, while giving wives social status became a more significant consideration.

Keywords:   Qing dynasty, Manchus, China, palace women, imperial consorts, empresses, concubines, marriage, Aisin Gioro daughters, ethnicity

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