The late Ming (16th–17th cent.) witnessed the newfound popularity of garden writing. This article questions how gentry women negotiated this traditionally male-dominant genre and even employed it to respond to the dynastic change. By analyzing the writings of a family and their acquaintances—namely, Shang Jinglan (1605–1676); her husband, Qi Biaojia (1602–1645); her children; and her male and female acquaintances—this article argues that gender relations significantly influenced not only Shang's writing but also the social-cultural meaning of the family garden. Shang's life before the fall of the Ming reflected entrenched gender divisions between interior and exterior. Dynastic collapse and her husband's suicide as a Ming martyr altered her persona from the feminine, silent figure in Qi's garden writings and pushed her to write explicitly about the family garden, Allegory Garden. The writings by Shang, her beloved family, and friends and acquaintances in turn transformed this garden into a symbol in remembrance of individual persons and the former dynasty. This article attempts to generate a new interdisciplinary discussion of late imperial women's place in the history of Chinese garden literature.

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