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When the meal is ready, she will be expected to greet the senior members of the family in turn.


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Her cooking skills will be on display, and she is likely to fall far short of their demands. They will compare her dishes with those of the senior sister-in-law, who cooks superbly and can make even simple fare taste like banquet food her gruel tastes like sweet dates, her bean curd like salted meat.

The brothers-in-law, in particular, will compare her household skills to those of the other married women. It will be difficult to cook rice to suit the differing tastes of her parents-in-law. Rice was husked by women using a mortar and pestle. Nor will she be able to cope with heavy duties such as carrying burdens using bamboo poles. This contradiction comes from the nature of the inherited formulaic repertoire. Imagining Jiangnan Education and Literacy About 70 percent of the population of Nanhui before was illiterate.

But the bride is very aware of the advantage of literacy and its association with the upper class. The same expression is used as a general term of praise, even when it clearly does not refer to education.

Dangerous Voices: Women's Laments and Greek Literature

As she departs from her natal home, the bride declares her hope that her brother will take the imperial examinations abolished in As for her nephew, she envisages him as learning how to write characters and read the basic primers, such as the Thousand Character Classic and the Hundred Surnames. These comments about her brothers hardly refer to their actual situation, since one can assume that they are destined to spend their days toiling in the fields like her father, but rather to the grand myth of Chinese civilization—the pursuit of a classical education and participation in the lottery of the imperial examination system.

The main area outside Shuyuan that she recognizes is Datuan. Shuyuan is linked to Datuan by a waterway that until the contemporary era provided its primary link to the outside world. One travelled by boat to Datuan, crossing the numerous wooden and stone bridges that criss-cross the town, some of which remained in the late s.

The bride marvels at the crowded residences of Datuan, where narrow houses stand in rows face-to-face across tiny lanes. How different this was to her village home, set in isolation along the edge of the water channels! The bride often speaks of the weighing scales, or cheng. This consisted of a pole with a hook for the object to be weighed at one end and a weight hung with string from a nail set in the pole.


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  4. The relative position of the nail along the pole determined the balance and accuracy of the scales. The bride used this notion to refer to anything fixed and certain; for example, her family name was fixed like the nail on a pair of scales. She was aware that even when married, she would retain the family name of her birth, and in this way always be marked as not belonging to the patriline of her husband. Similarly, she declares that she was born stupid, a fact as certain as the nail banged into the measuring scales.

    The women of Shuyuan rarely travelled to Datuan, but the men of the family regularly went there to purchase necessities such as oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar. You bought small goods and food to take home, Brother, when you bought cassia-scented soap you cajoled the shop-seller to add a little more, You brought four ounces of clam oil, And two pairs of engraved knives. On Being Carried to the Bridal Chair, 44, 51—54, 57 The bride is also aware of the significance of Nanhui town, the county seat of Nanhui now known as Huinan , although there are no signs in the lament repertoire that she has visited this area.

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    She is aware of the thick city walls, which were not destroyed until The God of the City Walls also features in her imagination; she likens her mother-in-law to the Wife of the City God Chenghuang nainai. In the nineteenth century, a temple to the City God was located in Nanhui township. The distant city of Shanghai is mentioned in laments only as a centre of commerce.

    When they are wealthy, they will surely buy land in Shanghai. The lack of references to Shanghai other than as a place to sell bolts of cloth could indicate that the typical bride of the sands communities of this era late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries had never been to this metropolis. However, the bride is dimly aware of her location east of the Huangpu River, and talks of families who have won fame throughout the Huangpu region Filling the Box, She has also heard of famed places in Jiangnan, such as Nanjing, where she envisages her brother going to take the imperial exams A Bowl of Rice, Suzhou, the largest city in Jiangnan in the later imperial era, is known to her as the place where the wealthy seek brides Thanking the Matchmaker She believes that the wealthy homes have stone bridges curved like Lake Taihu, located in the Jiangnan hinterland The Bridal Boat, At the outermost reaches of her known world lies Yunnan in southwest China.

    When they are wealthy they will buy land stretching as far away as remote Yunnan A Bowl of Rice, The Imperial System and Western Penetration The bride constructs the pojia in line with her understandings of the power of the elite and officialdom in imperial times. In this way, the power of the state, remote and shadowy as it would appear in this part of Nanhui, is given concrete expression. Her received knowledge appears to derive less from the Republican era of the s, which is when Pan Cailian learnt her kujia repertoire as a young girl, than from the final decades of the imperial period mid-nineteenth century to The bride construes the pojia as having marital ties with noble and official families huangdi guanjia.

    The anger of the senior men in the pojia will be like the rage of Security Group Heads who collected rent during the late imperial and early Republican era baozheng officials. In the final blessing to her family A 31 32 The Bridal Laments of Nanhui Bowl of Rice , she envisages the emperor as smiling on the family and rewarding them.

    He appears as a benign presence, in contrast to the haughty arrogance of officialdom.

    Performing Grief: Bridal Laments in Rural China

    The lower Yangzi delta was one of the first areas to be affected by the Opium Wars and British incursions into the area from the s. By the early s, steamships linked east of the Huangpu to Shanghai and modern factories were set up in Zhoupu in western Nanhui. In her laments, the Nanhui bride referred to various foreign items in circulation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as foreign cloth yangbu and foreign silver dollars bai yangtian. It is the architecture, food, objects, and products of this region that are summoned up in a host of vivid images in the lament repertoire.

    In her lament, the bride validates the heroic toil of the sands people and their stoic and goodhumoured response to the harsh circumstances of their existence. Representatives of the Chinese state—the baozheng officials, tribute tax, and the emperor—were mere shadowy images to tenant cultivators at Shuyuan, whose contact was with the landlord, not the tax collector.

    Guangdong Rural Bride(China)

    However, for the bride the power of the state was made concrete and immediate through the imaginary of the pojia. Her people lacked an Imagining Jiangnan understanding of the protocols of the elite, and she would be sure to meet with cold-eyed disapproval. Nonetheless, the aspiration to social mobility continues as a powerful motif throughout the lament. The dualistic imagery of the niangjia and pojia, of the exchange of the bride between one mother-home and another, allows the bride to mediate the tension between loyalty to the sands community of her birth and the possibility of a rise in status through hypergamous marriage.

    This is an imagined world where the impoverished coastal fringe is not at the periphery of Jiangnan but at its very centre.

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    It was to this region that her forebears had migrated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to toil as tenant labourers on land painfully reclaimed from silt left deposited at the very mouth of the ocean. The labour of coastal women in spinning and weaving cotton was of crucial importance to the commodity economy of Jiangnan in the late imperial era.

    Due to marriage customs and local demographics, the poorest men were often unable to find brides and women were highly prized in the marriage market. As the above saying indicates, virtually all women were married, even those who were handicapped or slatternly. A History of the Nanhui Region The area now known popularly as Pudong or east of the Huangpu River emerged gradually from the floodplain of the Yangzi and Qiantang Rivers during the last millennium.

    In the eighth century CE, the settlement of Zhoupu, now located in the far west of Nanhui county, marked the sea wall by the coast. The sea wall, marking the edge of the reclaimed land, has been rebuilt several times since the eighth century to allow for the expansion of territory. Saltworks were established in the tenth century and salt production was to remain the major industry until the sixteenth century.

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    Today one can still find place-names containing the term zao, or furnace, the original names of the historical saltworks. It was during the Ming longqing era — that the saltworks were arranged into larger units called tuan. With the expansion of silt over the centuries, the original saltworks gradually moved farther and farther away from the sea.

    The salt industry went into gradual decline by the late eighteenth century, to be replaced in importance by the cotton industry. One major legacy of the salt industry was the network of waterways constructed around major saltworks. As salt declined in importance, the waterways were enlarged and used for crop irrigation. In the first Ming emperor built a walled township called Nanhui the modern county town of Huinan and garrisoned troops there.

    In Huinan today one can still visit the Drum Tower and view the giant drum used to alert the populace of an imminent attack. By the late Ming, the famed commander Qi Jiguang — trained troops in Datuan, which was then located on the edge of the sea wall. The high Qing period saw the expansion of Nanhui and an elevation of its status. By the number of male heads of families in Nanhui County was determined to be 44, It was at this time that a Confucius temple complex, including a training school for local candidates taking the imperial examinations, was built within the walls of Nanhui township.

    Other historical sites remaining in the present day include temples and stages for opera performances.

    The first edition of the Nanhui County Gazetteer recorded the main crops as rice paddy, soybeans, cotton, wheat, and barley. In areas distant from the Huangpu River, peasants pulled water carts and ladled water to rice paddy. For this reason the region was not always self-sufficient in this staple food.

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    Performing Grief: Bridal Laments in Rural China. Anne E. McLaren - Semantic Scholar

    If the local harvest was not adequate to feed the population, then people had to wait until peddlers came from Suzhou and Changshu. In times of natural disaster the price of grain skyrocketed, causing considerable hardship. The Huangpu River formed a barrier to the north of the region and prevented the emerging city of Shanghai from exerting a gravitational pull until the early twentieth century. Within Nanhui the major marketing towns of Zhoupu, Xinchang, and Datuan were linked by waterways.