This article reads exemplary biographies of chaste widows and women who committed suicide to preserve their chastity in the 1656 Yuding Nei ze yanyi 御定内則衍義 (Imperially Commissioned Expanded Meaning of the “Inner Standards”) by Fu Yijian 傅以漸 (1609–1665, jinshi 1646). In this anthology commissioned by the Shunzhi emperor on behalf of his mother, Fu's commentary emphasizes both the agency of individual women and the mutual resonance of personal virtue and political order. He not only praises the exemplars' virtue but also their agency, intelligence, and strategy. He explicitly acknowledges the different factors that could make chastity more difficult and states that in some situations, multiple courses of action were possible. He comments both on his heroines' political ability and on the political importance of recognizing chastity. Finally, in a context where women's chastity was often linked to political loyalism to the fallen Ming, Fu uses these biographies in a very different way: he presents chastity exemplars of conquered dynasties as foils to the decadent society around them. His commentary is thus recognizably tailored to his audience's circumstances as Manchu and Mongolian imperial women and his own as a Chinese male scholar at the beginning of the Qing.

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