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 Women in the courts of the T'ang Dynasty

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Join date : 2010-04-08

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PostSubject: Women in the courts of the T'ang Dynasty   Women in the courts of the T'ang Dynasty EmptyThu Apr 08, 2010 7:46 am

Women in the courts of the T'ang Dynasty, between 618 and 907, painted their eyebrows green; the standard of beauty was to have brows as delicately curved as the antennae of moths. Foreheads were powdered yellow with massicot, a lead oxide, for yellow was the color of vitality. Plumpness, as in many societies where the masses are hungry, was the ideal and useful, men claimed, in winter: in the poorly heated palaces, a prince or minister could huddle his heftiest concubines around him to protect him from drafts.

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Join date : 2010-10-05

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PostSubject: Re: Women in the courts of the T'ang Dynasty   Women in the courts of the T'ang Dynasty EmptyTue Oct 05, 2010 2:37 pm

In the history of Chinese women, the T'ang dynasty is known not only for women who contended for political power, but also for women's educational texts. Two important female educational texts which became part of the Female Four Books, The Female Classic of the Filial Piety by Lady Cheng and The Female Analects by Lady Sung Jo-hua (also called Sung Jo hsin in some sources), were written during the T'ang. These two books, while both are of a Confucian nature, convey different images of women. This paper compares these two texts to study the changing perceptions of T'ang women. In doing so, it also studies the contemporary political, social and cultural developments which contributed to this change of view.

Written during the same dynasty one hundred years apart, these two books created two different worlds for women. The Female Classic of Filial Piety instructed the making of a wise and learned lady who was politically active. She studied Confucian classics, advised husbands of affairs of state, managed family and relatives, and served the in-laws with propriety. Female submissiveness and obedience preached by Pan Chao of the Han dynasty in the Female Admonition was missing in this text. The Female Analects, however, discussed weaving, cleaning, household work and the serving of parents, husband, and in-laws which the author considered to be the world of women. Women were not encouraged to study. Where they went, how they acted and what they said, were all sternly regulated. The women in the Female Analects, were molded into the Confucian submissive females of the inner quarters. As women were authors for both texts, the differences seem to derive from socio-political rather than from a gender perspective.

These two texts, with The Classic of Female Filial Piety written before the An-Shih rebellions (755-763) and The Female Analects afterwards, may be seen as reflections of two different socio-political climates-the early and later T'ang dynasty-polarized by the An-Shih Rebellions. This paper thus explores the connections between The Classic of Female Filial Piety and the prevailing political influence of the imperial women in early T'ang. It also studies The Female Analects with a number of mid-to-late T'ang developments, such as the dwindling of female political power, the reaction against influential women, the revival in Confucianism and the changing concepts of family ethics.

The process of Confucianization of female inevitably involved tension, contradiction and adjustment especially in the T'ang when females had already enjoyed considerable power and freedom. This paper also compares rules from The Female Analects to the conduct of Ts'ui Ying-ying, the female protagonist in "The Tale of Ying-ying," written some twenty years after the firm circulation of The Female Analects. Ying-ying's behavior becomes less enigmatic when seen in the light of the tension between the relatively open contemporary mores and a conservative Confucian education.

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