Siao Chen Hu

Academia Sinica, Taiwan 

Siao-chen Hu is Research Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. A specialist in early modern Chinese literature, especially Ming-Qing narrative and women’s literature, she is the author of 新理想、舊體例與不可思議之社會──清末民初上海「傳統派」文人與閨秀作家的轉型現象 A Conflicted New World, 2011 ), 才女徹夜未眠──近代中國女性敘事文學的興起 (Burning the Midnight Oil: The Rise of Female Narrative in Early Modern China2003), and many articlesShe is also the co-editor, with Wang Ayling, of 經典轉化與明清敘事文學 (Transformations of Literary Canons and Ming-Qing Narrative Literature2009) and, with Wang Hongtai, of 日常生活的論述與實踐 (Discourse and Practice of Everyday Life, 2011). Currently she is writing a book on Ming-Qing literary representation of China’s southwest region.


The Female Chieftain’s Tribute 

During the long history of encounters between the Han and non-Han people, the Han writers produced many texts that represent the non-Han as the other. These texts are in the genres of local gazetteers, travelogues and miscellaneous notes, and they narrate about the geographical, institutional and social traits of the non-Han regions and people. Among the profuse information they provide, the description of local produce and food often goes beyond factual record and is loaded with feeling and imagination. This essay centers around texts about the negotiation between She Xiang, a female chieftain in Guizhou, and the first emperor of the Ming dynasty, and discusses how clothing and food are represented as symbolic tokens of political exchanges between the leaders of the court and the borderland. As buckwheat, the main food crop of the region, is used to make the “golden crispy cake” that bears the pattern of nine dragons and presented to the emperor himself as the female chieftain’s tribute, the story of She Xiang is transformed from strategic negotiation between the central authority and borderland power to a side dish of exotic flavor in the feast of multi-ethnic unified empire.