Editor’s Introduction

We are pleased to announce the publication of the Fall/Winter 2013–14 issue of Asia Pacific Perspectives. This special issue highlights papers from the University of San Francisco Center for Asia Pacific Studies’ spring 2013 symposium “The Imperial Court in China, Japan, and Korea: Women, Servants, and the Emperor’s Household (1600 to early 1900s).” 

The five papers in this issue shed new light on the lives of women and servants, and how the imperial courts of China, Japan, and Korea ran their households from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. These diverse articles present themes relevant for our understanding of these often-overlooked inhabitants and important organizations living and operating within the walls of the imperial palace, namely the study of women, gender, art, ethnicity, and medicine as presented by scholars from the fields of history, anthropology, art history, and the history of medicine. 

The first two papers examine the lives of women in the imperial courts of Tokugawa Japan and Ming China. Elizabeth Lillehoj’s examination of the Empress Meishō’s engagement with art (from her enthronement through her years of retirement) provides a lens for understanding the importance of art in the lives of the Japanese imperial family during the seventeenth century. Lillehoj’s vivid account of the art and diversions enjoyed by the Empress gives voice to Meishō and reveals her engagement with the art and material culture of Tokugawa Japan. 

Ellen Soulliere presents readers with a comprehensive overview of the Ming (1368–1644) imperial household and its familial system. Her study reveals the dynamics of the workings of the inner court as imperial women and their families negotiated with other players at court (eunuchs, civil officials, etc.) for power and influence. Exploring the lives of women at the Ming imperial court, ranging from the imperial to the servile, from the Empress Dowager Li (1546–1614) to female officials and wet nurses, Soulliere provides insight into the important roles women filled within the palace. 

Turning to the workings of the imperial court, Sare Aricanli presents an institutional history of the Qing (1644–1911) Imperial Medical Bureau (Taiyiyuan), Imperial Pharmacy (Yuyaofang), and Ministry of Imperial Stables, Herds, and Carriages (Shangsiyuan). Arincali’s research reveals the breadth of medical activity during the Qing and argues that medicine within the imperial court was characterized by a wide range of medical practitioners, patients, and linguistic and cultural influences. 

Kim Jiyoung provides an anthropologist’s view of the importance of fertility and childbirth in the lives of imperial women at the Joseon court in nineteenth-century Korea. Kim analyzes the preparations made for the delivery of the king’s offspring, comparing the treatment of queens during childbirth with that of the king’s concubines, and reveals the intricacies involved in ensuring the future health, fertility, and auspiciousness of the imperial family. 

We end this issue with a piece by Grant Hayter-Menzies, keynote speaker at the spring 2013 symposium. As an author who focuses on chronicling the life experiences and friendships of notable women, here the friendship of Sarah Pike Conger and China’s Empress Dowager Cixi, I knew that he would be the perfect speaker to invite to deliver the keynote address for a symposium aimed at giving voice to women and servants, groups who have often been silenced in the historical record. 

We hope you enjoy these papers and that they cause you to think about the lives and contributions of these previously overlooked important people and organizations in the imperial courts of China, Japan, and Korea from the 1600s–1900s. 

Last but not least, I would like to thank those who contributed their time and energy into producing this issue. Thanks to Jan Vaeth for his attention to detail and InDesign™ formatting skills. I would also like to thank managing editor, Dr. Dayna Barnes, for all of the hard work and dedication she has put into seeing this issue through to publication. 

Melissa S. Dale 



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