Daughters of Canton Delta

Friday, January 12, 2024 10:00 am - Sunday, March 31, 2024 5:15 pm

UChicago Yuen Campus in Hong Kong
168 Victoria Road, Mount Davis
Hong Kong


At least since the early 19th century, some women in the Pearl River Delta have chosen not to marry, choosing instead to join communities of zishunu 自梳女, or “self-combed women.”

At first, these women moved into all-female houses and took vows to remain celibate; most earned money working in sericulture or in silk weaving and sent some of it home to their natal families. Over time, the practice spread via emigration to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia and became more varied. Some of the women became domestics or factory workers and lived with their employers, in factory dormitories, in apartments, or in communities for religious women (some of whom may have been married at an earlier stage in their lives) rather than in communities dedicated to zishunu. In old age, some returned to their natal communities and lived in the home of a brother; others remained in female communities, often cared for by a younger zishunu.

Some view these women as rejecting mainstream Chinese family conventions by women seeking greater freedom and independence; others see them as an option within mainstream culture, which emphasizes a woman’s role as a daughter and member of her extended natal family rather than as a wife and mother. Either way, the lives of these women represent a fascinating, distinctive, and sometimes even heroic phenomenon, and have drawn the attention of scholars, artists, and social activists.



Artists: Kurt Tong, Chen Jialu

Curator: Amanda Sun / Arts For Good Foundation

Mark Barnekow
Executive Director, The University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus in Hong Kong

Historical Background:
Kenneth Pomeranz
University Professor of Modern Chinese History and the College
Department of History, the University of Chicago
Faculty Director, the University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus Hong Kong

Graphic Design: Cecilia Lu

Chinese Calligraphy: Katrina Mo

Regular Exhibition
January 12, 2024, to March 31, 2024
 (available from Tuesday to Saturday, except public holidays) and the below dates: 
February 3, 2024 
February 24, 2024 
March 4-6, 2024 
March 16, 2024 
March 30, 2024