Women In China During 'The Long Eighteenth Century';
During the 18th Century women in China continued to be subordinated and subjected to men. Their status was maintained by laws, official policies, cultural traditions, as well as philosophical concepts. The Confucian ideology of 'Thrice Following'; identified to whom a women must show allegiance and loyalty as she progressed throughout her life-cycle: as a daughter she was to follow her father, as a wife she was to follow her husband, and as a widow she was to follow her sons. Moreover, in the Confucian perception of the distinction between inner and outer, women were consigned to the inner domestic realm and excluded from the outer realm of examinations, politics and public life. For the most part, this ideology determined the reality of a woman's live during China's 'long eighteenth century?'; This is especially true for upper class women.
The philosophical idea of yin and yang is found throughout Chinese culture, literature, and social structure. The idea is that the world is made up two opposite types of energy which must be kept in balance with one another. Neither is greater than the other, or more important than the other. In respect to gender, yin is female and yang is male. Yin is private life within the family and yang is public life outside the family. Men were to focus on public life and outside affairs and support the family while women were to focus on private life and support the men.
For many men resisting the pressures of scholarly careers, women appeared
as guardians of stability, order and purity. The woman's quarters, secluded
behind courtyards and doorways deep in the recesses of the house offered
a refuge from world of flux, chaos, and corruption. Women nurtured and
tutored men when they were young, tended them when they became sick,
and cared for them when they grew old. When a man holding office faced devastating financial losses or difficult political decisions, only his wife's disinterested advice and frugal savings could save his career. Although
a man might often be called away to duty or might die prematurely, he could
count on his wife or widow to care for his aging parents and his vulnerable children. (Mann 50)
Ideally, women and men were to share in a partnership with the ultimate purpose
of mutual support and prosperity for the family as a whole. From a modern American point of view this seems terribly unfair. The men work and are empowered to interact with the world, then return home to be taken care of. But this is not necessarily the way it was perceived by the Chinese. There were plenty of unhappy women. However, there were also men who thought that the private (inner) life of the family was more desirable than the public life which they faced.
For Hong Liangji and many leading social critics of the time, the 'woman's chambers'; (guige) were a haven in a complex, brutal world. Elite men faced
a daily confrontation with material corruption (the 'dusty...