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Sequels to honglou meng : how gu taiqing continues the story in honglou meng ying Chow, Natasha Jennifer


After Honglou meng (1791) was published, a number of sequels appeared that redefined its major characters, rewrote its ending, and continued the story of life within the two Jia households. One of these was Honglou meng ying (1877), by female poet, Gu Taiqing. Despite its status as the earliest extant novel written by a woman, few studies have been devoted to examining it. Building on research that Ellen Widmer has provided on Gu Taiqing and her work, including Honglou meng ying, I will explore the novel further in terms of its relationship to the parent work and to other sequels written by men, and also examine it on its own terms as a literary work. Some of the main questions that I will address include: how does it compare to other sequels to Honglou meng? How does Gu Taiqing’s continuation of Honglou meng depart from the parent novel? I have organized my discussion by providing an introduction to Gu Taiqing, whilst providing contextual information about women’s education, their relationship to fiction, and the impact of Honglou meng. Chapter One will deal with the broad issue of sequels in the Chinese context, the popularity of writing sequels during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and conclude with some observations about Honglou meng sequels in particular. The second chapter will deal exclusively with Gu Taiqing’s Honglou meng ying, evaluating it in terms of how the author continues the parent work, how she refashions its characters and themes, and how her sequel reflects her own unique concerns (which may not have been part of the original parent work). Finally, I will conclude with some remarks about Honglou meng ying in terms of its relation to sequel writing in late imperial China and its contribution to our understanding of women’s reading and writing in the final years of the Qing dynasty.

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