Yangzhou was known for its “women” but not for women's literature. Underlying literary imaginations about the beautiful women of Yangzhou were salt wealth and a commerce of women serving the wealthy during the late imperial period. The notoriety of this commerce seemed to exclude the possibility that Yangzhou might also boast accomplished women writers, like the cultural heartland of the Jiangnan region. This study revisits these assumptions in light of the literary sources and prominent cases that testify to the vibrancy of women's literary activities in Yangzhou. The city was a transregional literary center and a favored destination of sojourning poets and merchants, particularly those from Huizhou, creating opportunities for women to attain literary fame. Central to this discussion is a poetic language about sites and spaces that became current in Yangzhou during the Qing era. For a woman poet to place herself at the sites of Yangzhou that were repeatedly celebrated by poets was to claim membership in the elite networks or trends of cultural emulation formed on the basis of the sites. Viewed in transregional contexts, sites and spaces comprised the spatial imaginaries in women's literature—defined broadly as the spatial ordering of the world, and Yangzhou's place in it, as imagined and written about by women.

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