Professor to discuss women and sovereignty in 19th-century China

Lydia Liu, professor of comparative literature and Helmut F. Stern Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, will discuss women and sovereignty in 19th-century China at 7 p.m. Monday, April 1, in Room G50 of Pettengill Hall, 4 Andrews Road The public is invited to attend free of charge, and a reception will follow in Room Go4 of Pettengill.

The Empress Dowager of China celebrated her 60th birthday in November 1894. For that occasion, representatives of Christian missionaries and Chinese converts presented her with a Chinese Bible. Known as the Presentation New Testament, the legendary book was printed on the finest paper available at the time and in the largest metallic type by a mission press in Shanghai. Had the presentation of the Bible on a royal occasion like this occurred 50 years earlier, it would have been construed as a challenge to the authority of the Chinese emperor. The fact that the Empress Dowager not only tolerated the act but also reciprocated it says a great deal about the changing relations between China and the West.

Drawing on her recent archival research into circumstances surrounding the making of the Presentation New Testament, Liu’s talk will raise new questions about gender, empire and gift exchange.

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