Young Woman Reading in a Garden

Fanyuan Qiao
circa 1866
ink, color on paper
Image : 8 3/4 x 19 1/2 in. (22.23 x 49.53 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
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In traditional Chinese culture, texts were one of the most important ways of transmitting Confucian culture from generation to generation. By reading histories, philosophical treatises, poetry collections and other books, a person absorbed knowledge and lessons that promoted the development of Confucian virtues and created a shared culture. Historically, China was a heavily patriarchal society and education was mostly reserved for boys and men from affluent families. However, some families also provided education to their daughters and wives and there is long, distinguished tradition of female literature and art in China. This painting depicts a young woman sitting in a garden reading a book. The signature in the lower right corner indicates that the painter was also a woman. The painting was originally attached to a set of wooden ribs and used as a folding fan. Fans were important fashion accessories in late imperial China—perhaps akin to a purse or watch today—so this painting would have been a very public symbol of the owner’s appreciation for female culture.

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