Banished Immortal

Searching for Shuangqing, China's Peasant Woman Poet
Paul S. Ropp
A lyrical account of a decade-long search for the truth about Shuangqing, China's peasant woman poet


In 1737, an obscure painter, poet, and scholar, Shi Zhenlin, published a dreamy rambling memoir in which he described a talented and persecuted peasant woman poet named Shuangqing. Because of her exquisite beauty, people assumed she was a banished immortal, a divine being expelled from Heaven for one incarnation in the human realm. Shi Zhenlin quoted many of Shuangqing's poems and song lyrics, and in the following two centuries, she became famous as China's only great peasant woman poet.

Using Shi Zhenlin's memoir as a window on Chinese literary culture in the eighteenth century, Paul Ropp traces the evolution of Shuangqing's place in Chinese culture from the eighteenth century to the present. Ropp also takes account of his own journey of discovery, exploring how one historian goes about reconstructing China's past and breathing life into it. Several chapters and many illustrations feature his 1997 investigative trip to Jintan and Danyang, the rural counties in Jiangsu Province where Shuangqing supposedly lived.

This highly personal account is designed to introduce a general audience to the pleasures, pitfalls, rigors, and surprises involved in the exploration of China's rich cultural heritage. Readers won't help but become full participants in this most intriguing search for China's peasant woman poet.

Paul S. Ropp is Professor of History, Clark University. He is the author of Heritage of China: Contemporary Perspectives on Chinese Civilization and Dissent in Early Modern China: Ju-lin wai-shih and Ch'ing Social Criticism.

Praise / Awards

  • "[A] beautifully written book. . . . Ropp has given us a very readable, persuasive book with an important message: the history of 'people on the margins' matters not just for what it tells us about their particular circumstances but also for what it says about how we write that history."
    —Harriet T. Zurndorfer, Leiden University, American Historical Review, April 2002
  • "Banished Immortal is three journeys through Chinese culture. Shih's, Shuangqing's, and Ropp's own. It is a delightful and unusual book. The aching poems are a bonus. Here is scholarly work with a human face."
    —Ross Terrill, Boston Sunday Herald, July 1, 2001
  • ". . . an unconventional and charming study of the eighteenth-century woman poet Shuangqing. . . . I found Ropp's book profoundly entertaining and intriguing, and I would not hesitate to recommend it strongly, whether to other late imperial specialists, students who are curious to know what humanistic research is really like, or even a general reader interested in China."
    —Tina Lu, University of Pennsylvania, Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 61: No. 2 (May 2002)
  • "Banished Immortal is three journeys through Chinese culture. Shi's, Shuangqing's and Ropp's own. It is a delightful and unusual book. The aching poems are a bonus. Here is scholarly work with a human face."
    —Ross Terrill, Milford MA News, July 15, 2001

Look Inside

Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 336pp.
  • 27 photographs, 2 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08892-8

Add to Cart
  • $34.95 U.S.