Yutai huashi (History of Painting from Jade Terrace), published in 1837, is rare among Chinese art-historical texts, not only for its focus on women painters of the imperial period but also for its female authorship. While the text preserves information on women who painted, its acknowledged author, Tang Shuyu, draws connections between women authors (defined broadly here to include both artists and writers) and virtuous women. First, her organization of the text's first five chapters foregrounds the social identities of women painters—a system that hints at their virtue. Second, biographies of women painters who are filial, chaste, and/or faithful appear throughout, but these qualities are emphasized in the “Separate Record” at the book's end, the only section with significant amounts of new writing. Third, the text positions Tang Shuyu as a woman of virtue herself. Tang compiled materials for her book with contributions from her husband, Wang Yuansun, and she establishes herself as a figure deferential to authority, a woman who begins most passages with a source citation and never develops a clear editorial voice. Scholars of the history of Chinese art increasingly use gender as a category of analysis to understand the accomplishments of women artists and patrons as well as representations of female figures. This article analyzes Yutai huashi's gendered subjects and discussions of gender roles as a means of examining both the contributions of women authors and the priorities of Chinese art-historical writers.

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