Chinese Literature Dissertation Reviews: Jeongsoo Shin’s From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King

Transgendering of the Peony in East Asia Dissertation Reviews has posted Sixiang Wang‘s review of Jeongsoo Shin‘s From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King: Transgendering of King Peony in Medieval Chinese and Korean Literature. Here’s how it begins:

The peony has come to have a variety of associations in the East Asian literary tradition. Its luxurious petals have signaled wealth and beauty while its peculiar, seedless manner of reproduction has come to symbolize sterility and empty luxury. It has even come to represent political power as a symbol of China as a nation, arguably one of its dominant associations today. In his fascinating account of the peony’s literary history, From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King, Jeongsoo Shin seeks to understand the evolving connotations of this one flower. Shin not only examines the literary traditions associated with the peony in medieval China, but traces the flower’s cultivation and literary symbolism as it traveled to Silla Korea (57 BCE–935 CE). As the peony’s gender was transformed in this process of transmission, it also acquired a separate set of symbolic resonances.