Hsiao-wen Cheng

May 28, 2021

Divine, Demonic, and Disordered

Women Without Men in Song Dynasty China

University of Washington Press 2021

In Divine, Demonic, and Disordered: Women Without Men in Song Dynasty China (University of Washington Press, 2021), Cheng Hsiao-wen’s monograph looks at the women who are not married or otherwise in relationships with men. Through a wide range of sources, including medical treatises, texts about religious cultivation, hagiographies, tales, and anecdotes, Cheng explores how “manless women” were understood in the Song dynasty. The book’s three sections—focusing on medicals texts, stories of enchantment, and celibate religious women, respectively—consider the meaning of womanhood and the treatment of female bodies when they were not figured as “wives” or “mothers.” But Cheng’s work goes further, using women on the margins to challenge us to think about what we know and how we know it.

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