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Women In China During The Long

1320 words - 6 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

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 world," as they so often called it); elite women were protected from it. Instead, women occupied the still point around which men's active lives were constructed. The image of the woman's apartments as a timeless realm shielded from the cares and evils of the world, a retreat to which over stressed men might escape or retire, is a powerful trope in writings by men about women during the eighteenth century. (Mann 49) Studying and academic pursuits were an important aspect means of gaining power in the public world. Women were not permitted to take the civil service examinations during the 18th century. However, women were not necessarily denied access to knowledge, to a large extent, they were educated. Many women were literate, and many women wrote poems and other literary works.Handwork, especially embroidery, was considered the more appropriate womanly activity, being productive and practical as well as aesthetically pleasing. In addition, upper-class women in Qing times, even more than their counterparts in the late Ming, read and wrote. Most studied biographies of famous women, including long-suffering chaste widows and heroic martyrs who committed suicide to preserve their chastity. Elite women practiced the fine arts of painting, calligraphy, and music. They plucked classical stringed instruments. They wrote volumes of poetry. And in addition to learning the standard didactic texts for women, many studied the classics alongside their brothers. (Mann 58) As you can see, the focus of their education was dramatically different from their brothers. Women did study the classics in order to tutor their sons and brothers. But the pressure was off since they were never expected to take the exams. Their focus was much more leisurely and pleasant, perhaps something to do to avoid the boredom of domestic...

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