I was looking around in a searchable version of the Complete Collection of Illustrations and Writings from the Earliest to Current Times (Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成), an encyclopedic collection of texts that was compiled during the reigns of Qing Dynasty emperors Kangxi and Yongzheng and completed in 1725.

I did a search for “An Nam people” (安南人).

Four records that immediately appeared were for loyal An Nam wives of men from Guizhou. The source that was quoted for this information was the Comprehensive Gazetteer of Guizhou (Guizhou tongzhi 貴州通志).

1

From this text we learn about Madame Tống who vowed to never remarry after her husband died. She endured hardship until her death at the age of 89.

We also learn about Madame Dương. Married off at the age of 16, her husband drove her away, but two years later he repented and brought her back. She gave birth to a son, and then her husband died. However, she remained dedicated to the family until her death at the age of more than 70.

2

There are then similar stories about another Madame Tống whose husband died when she was 20 and a Madame Tiêu whose husband passed away when she was 29. Both women remained loyal to the memory of their husbands and did not remarry.

These women appear to have lived in the sixteenth century, and a couple of them were recognized and honored by the Ming Dynasty court for their loyalty.

Today, transnational marriages are a part of our globalized world and many of us probably think of this as something new. However, from looking at the Ming-period Comprehensive Gazetteer of Guizhou, we can see that this has been happening for a long time already.

I suspect (and hope), however, that the way that a young woman would decide to live her life after her husband died today would be different than it was in the sixteenth century.