This book explores the emotions, aspirations, and life journeys of faithful maidens, explaining what shaped the gender identity of young women and how they perceived and expressed honor, duty, and love. The faithful maiden cult offers a refreshing opportunity for a women-centered narrative of late imperial history. There is a broad link between the faithful maiden cult's escalation and the national and political crises, cultural fascination with extreme acts, and intensification of Confucian moral discourse on the cultivation of loyalty. Faithful maiden stories reveal that the unique moral capital which the young woman acquired was transferred into influence or even power that defied the normal gender and seniority hierarchy principles, allowing her greater control over her own life. The faithful maiden cult can be illuminating for comparative studies of adolescent girls in other cultures where life crises, body, sexuality, and suicide emerge as strikingly common themes.
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