Myths of Asian Womanhood

Topics: Tang Dynasty, Marriage, Neolithic Pages: 5 (1923 words) Published: April 12, 2006
When we think of the woman's role in Chinese society, we often look to the Neo-Confusion ideas of womanhood. The time when all women in China had the feet bound. When women were expected to be loyal, to there father or husband. There were times in Chinese societies when women had greater freedoms. If you examine stories from before the Song era, you can see some of these freedoms. Some of these powerful stories include; The woman warrior (Mulan) and The Xiang queens. Susan Mann believes that these are a few reoccurring stories that define women's roles in Chinese society. These stories were written before the time of the bound foot, and display a powerful image of women. Foot binding began in The Song Era. It was the process of tightly wrapping the feet of young girls in bandages to prevent growth. By the time a girl turned three years old, all her toes but the first were broken, and her feet were bound tightly with cloth strips to keep her feet from growing larger than 10 cm, about 3.9 inches. The practice would cause the soles of feet to bend in extreme concavity.It gave women the small feet that many man desired. The women all wore very small "lotus shoe". Mother feared that if their children didn't take part in this ritual it was often impossible to find a husband in the future. Foot binding caused many problems physically for the women. The women who had their feet bound were more likely to fall, less able to squat and less able to rise from a sitting position in their older years. The combination of the lower hip bone density, along with the fact women with bound feet were more likely to fall, put these women at an extremely high risk for hip fractures. This often kept women from leaving the home. That is why many believe it was the Neo-Confucian assertion of male dominance. It insured that women would hold their role in society as the "Homemaker and mother," to bear sons to keep paternal family line. Having such a low social and familial status, women could not even imagine holding a place within the political realm. During the Neo-Confucian revolution women had to remain virgins if not married, faithful if married, and chastity if widowed. Men could have premarital sex and concubines if they could afford them. A woman was required to obey her father before marriage, her husband during marriage, and her sons in widowhood. Women had no say at all in to whom their marriage partner would be, being expected to comply unconditionally with their parents or brothers' arrangements. Women could not divorce their husbands, or remarry. If a woman outlived her husband, she was permitted to marry only once in her lifetime. On the other hand, a husband could divorce his wife. It was not frowned upon for men to remarry if their wife had died or became unfaithful. During this time women were portrayed as chaste and loyal. Susan examines the paintings of the burial tomb from the Han Dynasty. The images of the wife in the tomb all came from stories from Liu Xiang. The images that were chosen were only from to sections from Liu Xiang's stories, chaste and obedient, and chaste and righteous. The deiced man was trying to send a strong massage to his widow and sons. To be loyal and obedient to him, even after his death. During this period, it was not unlikely that women heard or read the story of Yang Guifei. The story of Yang Guifei was that of a scheming seductive woman. She was a concubine that Emperor Xuangzong took a strong liking too. This helped get her relatives into powerful positions. Rumor began to slander her faithfulness to Xuangzong, so he took her on a retreat, while he was pledging his love for her; Al Lushan led a revolt to found a new dynasty. Although Xaungzong stopped the revolt, he was not able to protect Yang Guifei from being killed. He was so upset by the death of yang Guifei that he could not continue to be Emperor. While this story shows the power of a woman, it portrays them in...
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