Xia Shi lecture on China February 27, 2020

Party, Ball, and Hostess:

The Politics of Gender and Etiquette in Late Qing Diplomacy

Lecture by Prof. Xia Shi

New College Florida


February 27, 2020

4:00 pm

Lloyd 222


Studies of late Qing diplomatic history and its international relations still lack a gendered perspective. Meanwhile, Chinese women’s transition from domestic seclusion to public engagement has rarely been examined beyond the perspectives of education and employment. This paper explores the intersections of the two arenas through the avenue of chahui, a novel format of social gathering that Qing envoys and their family members encountered in European diplomatic circles, including parties, receptions, and balls. Late Qing envoys noticed that women were omnipresent in Western diplomatic circles. In addition to examining the politics involved, this talk further delineates how Qing officials eventually learned to entertain Western dignitaries and their wives through chahui even in China, replacing previously condescending and cumbersome Chinese rituals and etiquette. These exchanges taught Chinese elite men that what diplomacy entails was not just power politics, but transnational exchanges on the level of social norms. Particularly, gender separation might be a liability in international politics and that cross-cultural adaptation vis-à-vis gender-related etiquette was indispensable to modernizing Chinese diplomacy and international relations.


Cosponsors with Asian Studies include

Bankshead Speaker Fund

Department of History

Department of Religious Studies