This study examines the construction of women's life histories in literary collections through the exemplary case of Ling Zhiyuan 凌祉媛 and her poetry collection, Cuiluoge shici gao 翠螺閣詩詞稿 (Drafts of Poems and Song Lyrics from the Green Snail Shell Loft). Published in 1854 by her young husband Ding Bing (1832–1899) after her untimely death, this small collection is framed by numerous paratexts such as prefaces, verse inscriptions, biographical accounts, and elegies. I explore how Ling's self-representation in her poetry is mediated by these paratexts and show how different readers may have read or interpreted her poems. This essay thus highlights the discursive complexity and kinship and social networks underlying the production and interpretation of life writing in late imperial China.

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