Letters by Women of the Ming-Qing Period ¡V Yu Yin Cheng

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During the Ming-Qing period, the lives of women were more colorful, especially for women in the elite families. Although the household management and duties still dominated most women¡¦s lives, Ming-Qing women in elite families could hared other concerns, including study, writing and the development of intellectual interests. They visited and wrote letter to each other and also they organized some literary clubs of their own. Their social circle was expanded.

Ming-Qing women wrote different types of letters, such as family letters and social letters. For the family letters, the women would write to their husbands, daughter-in-law and so on. The language was more elegant and less colloquial, compared to men. Also the theme of their letters focused on their interest in intellectual pursuit, literary and artistic interest in individual creativity. They viewed their family member as dual roles, one as a family member and the other as an intellectual companion.

For the social letters, the style was more intimacy and formal. The language style would depend on the relationship of the writer and the addressee. The letters exchanged between two female friends were written in a style with intimate feeling and straightforward languages. However, the letter to the members of a female literary club was in a formal and polite style. The social letters could help the women to identify their own zhinji and expand the social and spiritual space. They could support each other in their efforts to improve literary and artistic skills and religious pursuit and offer other spiritual comfort.

Why did women at that time have such colorful lives? It is due to the social changes. During Ming-Qing period, the printing industry was well-developed. The literature and poetry were spread all over the country. The women could assess the literary very easily. Also, the elite families were proud of the achievement of their women. The well-educated women could have good marriage and...
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