As the daughter of an affluent father, Lady Xun was destined for a life of prosperity. However, her life was marked by benevolence, not political or economical achievements. After marrying Yuanye Zhang, her life went from extreme luxury into a married life of severe poverty. While marrying into a lower social class was not a common occurrence in the early Qing dynasty, it offers a unique perspective on what it was like to be both wealthy and impoverished in the early eighteenth century. While no known writings by Lady Xun exist, her legacy was passed down through a biography written by her cousin-in-law, Zhang Xuecheng, in A Biographical Sketch of My Elder Cousin's Wife, Goodwife Xun. By looking at the biography by Xuecheng and historical accounts of the early Qing period, it is possible to understand Lady Xun through her natal family, education, economic standing, occupation, role as wife, other relations, and beliefs.
[...] Banking in Modern China: Entrepreneurs, Professional Managers, and the Development of Chinese Banks, 1897-1937 (Cambridge Modern China Series). (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) “Qing Dynasty Introductions.” In History of China November 2008
[...] Some days Lady Xun was forced to cook the same grains multiple times until they dried out and then soften them just so they would have something to eat. While this must have been a tremendous change for her she never let it show. herself ate coarse food as if it were fine wheat.” She even had to take out credit with the butcher in order to supply her family and guests with meat. When her credit account with the butcher ran out, she was forced to pawn her dowry jewelry so she could continue feeding her family meat. In addition, Lady Xun put the clothing needs of her family in front of her own, wearing the same garments for decades. [...]
[...] Due to the comfortable economic position Lady Xun's family was in, she was able to receive an education. Lady Xun was not classically educated, seeing as how schools were not open to women at this time. However, she may have been taught by tutors of her brothers, as many elite women were. Zhang claimed that, loved popular novels and heroic opera tales, especially stories of faithful widows and loyal ministers who stood fast in the face of great adversity.” Lady Xun also seemed to be very familiar with the Confucian classics, as much of her later life was lived in accordance of many of the principals of Confucianism such as benevolence and following certain rites. [...]
[...] Since Lady Xuan and her husband lived in Beijing, multiple generations of the Zhang family would stay at their home while attending business at the capital. The Academy and the jinshi examinations were located in Beijing, and so whenever a relative chose to receive an education or pursue a political career, they more than likely would stay with Lady Xun. Although there were hardly enough resources to support their immediate family, Lady Xun was able to always make the people who stayed with her feel like they were at home. [...]
[...] Lady Xun took it upon herself to take care of the concubine and change and clean her as was needed. Although these tasks were often hard on her body and challenging mentally, she never saw it as a burden. The Goodwife saw it as her duty to the family to make sure each family member was comfortable and cared for. While Lady Xun's compassion and selfless may make people think she was devoutly religious, in actuality she was against religion, and vehemently against Buddhism. [...]
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