China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The Jingkang Incident (1126-1127) that brutally ended the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) resulted in an unprecedented scale of violence toward women in Chinese history. However, their traumatic experiences became muted in official records of the early Southern Song. Presumably in avoidance of invoking the humiliation the Song imperial family suffered as well as in hope of maintaining peace with the Jin, Emperor Gaozong’s (r. 1127-1162) court forcibly repressed compiling and publishing private histories. Examining stories featuring female protagonists of the Jingkang era preserved in Hong Mai’s massive story collection, Record of the Listener (Yijian zhi), this paper explores how women’s experiences during war, as captive, or in forced migration were depicted as supernatural or anomalous encounters. Recent scholarship, relying on historical collections lost in China but rediscovered abroad, such as the Private Histories of Jingkang (Jingkang baishi), contends that the sexual violence and humiliation women suffered during the Jingkang Incident consequently led to increasing demands of female chastity in Neo-Confucianism. However, these historical constructions fall short of illuminating women’s personal responses to the impact of violence and war. In this paper, I demonstrate stories of anomalies as an alternative way to give voice to women’s traumatic experiences as a counter to Southern Song’s new order of obliterating the recent past. I argue that rather than eulogizing female chastity, these orally circulated stories demonstrate women’s refusal of being silent victims of violence and war by staging revenging female ghosts or bizarre monstrous female figures.