Mar 03, 2014


the Tang Dynasty painting Group portrait of Noblewomen

During China's feudal epoch, society was male-centered. There was consequently a pervasive belief in man's superiority over woman that continued as the ruling ideology throughout feudal society. Women were thus regarded as little more than bond servants in feudal China.

At this time, male dominance was guaranteed and maintained by certain norms. The three cardinal guides (ruler guides subject, father guides son, and husband guides wife) and the five constant virtues (benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and sincerity) defined social behavior, and the three obediences (in ancient China a woman was required to obey her father before marriage, her husband during marriage, and her sons in widowhood) and four virtues (women's fidelity, physical charm, propriety in speech and proficiency at needle work) guided the family order.


tri-coloured glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty

In feudal China, women had no say at all as regards their marriage partner, being expected to comply unconditionally with their parents or brothers' arrangements. Women had neither the right to divorce their husbands, nor to remarry. Whether or not a woman outlived her husband, she was permitted to marry only once in her lifetime. On the other hand, a husband could lawfully abandon his wife if she committed one of the seven sins: being unfilial, barren, lascivious, jealous, succumbed to a repellent disease, meddling, or stealing.

Having such a low social and familial status, women could not even dream of filling a place within the political and economic realm.

During the long, dark period of Chinese feudal history that lasted more than 2,000 years, however, there was a brief and sunny respite for ancient downtrodden Chinese women. This was during the 618 to 765 zenith of the Tang Dynasty. Scholars from later ages agree that, compared to the majority of ancient Chinese women, those of the Tang Dynasty were blessed to have lived at this propitious time.


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