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The Sword or the Needle


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Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Xiaoshuo, Xia and the Literary Representation of the Female - Social Policing, Vengeance, Banditry: The Basic Themes of the Female Xia Tale in the Tang - Redressing Wrongs in Human Relations: Transformations of the Female Xia in the Song - Agencies of Order: Female Xia Lore in Qing-Dynasty Classical Tales - Immortal Swordswomen Ordering the World: An Early- and a Late-Qing Novel - The Female Xia in the Tangles of Romance: The Taming and Domestication of Shisanmei - Lu Siniang Assassinates the Yongzheng Emperor: Transformations of a Legend in Early-Republican Popular Fiction - Reappraisals of the Female Xia in Modern Urban Popular Fiction Around 1930.

About the Author

The Author: Roland Altenburger is Research Associate at the University of Zurich, Department of Chinese Studies. He received his doctoral degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Zurich in 1996. His research stays include a two-year term at Harvard University. The present book is the revised version of his postdoctoral thesis for the attainment of the venia legendi (Habilitationsschrift), accepted by the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Zurich in June, 2001. His publications focus on pre-modern and early modern Chinese literature, particularly vernacular narrative. His research interests also include literary regionalism and popular culture.


"This is the most comprehensive English-language study to date of Chinese narratives about female knights-errant or swordswomen ('nuxia'). (...) Altenburger's research is thorough, and his examinations of texts are careful, cogently argued, and meticulously documented. Summing Up: Highly recommended." (Y. Wu, Choice)
"'The Sword or the Needle' est un ouvrage passionnant, riche et novateur, qui jette sur les femmes de la Chine traditionnelle un regard decale mais particulierement instructif." (Nicolas Zufferey, Etudes chinoises)
"This is a fine book with a wealth of detail about 'nuxia' narratives in Chinese culture from Tang times to the 1930s. [...] Altenburger's insistence on the ambiguity, complexity, and importance of the female knight-errant tradition is well taken. He has written a comprehensive and erudite study that deserves a wide reading." (Paul S. Ropp, China Review International 18, 2011/1)

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