Daughter of Han, on Confucian Values

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Daughter of Han, on Confucian Values

By | July 2007
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No matter what one's social status was, if one was born in China pre twentieth century, one would have at least rudimentary knowledge of Confucian gender values, whether through direct study or through traditions that were already soaked in Confucian ideology. In upper-class society, daughters are taught through study of classical Confucian texts and as a result most have a great understanding and following of those values; sons are likewise taught their role and are required to follow it if they desire to move up in society. In the lower social strata, it is a bit more difficult to tell how integrated Confucian gender values are because one can see from accounts by upper class scholars, artists, and during late-Imperial China, foreigners, that many of the lower class are in situations where the strict following of Confucian gender values would make it impossible to survive. Men had an easier time following their role according to Confucian values except when it came to coming in contact with women. This was because women themselves had a much harder time staying true to Confucian gender rules to the letter. Lower class women in many cases could not stay in the inner quarters out of sight of men, for most had to work outside those quarters to support their family. In A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Women, one finally gets a first-hand look at the life of a lower class woman in late-Imperial China. Through analysis Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai's life, I've come be believe that despite the unavoidability of women working outside their homes and the resulting occasional close contact with men outside the home, Confucian values were still a great and important part of the lower class population's own individual values, showing that until the era of Ning's granddaughter, which could be considered modern China, Confucian gender values truly were deeply disseminated into the minds of the lower social classes.

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