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Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 22:24:31 -0400 Reply-To: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture Steven A. Leibo, The Sage Colleges race To: H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU

Undergraduate Readings on Chinese Women

A dialog on the H-Asia list, July 1998

Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 22:24:31 -0400
From: steffani@eden.rutgers.edu


Could anyone recommend essays suitable for undergraduate reading that would address the status of women in China, tracing changes since the period of heavy Western contact in the 19th century? Are there any even-handed accounts of, say, plural marriage? For the purposes of rough, speculative cross-cultural comparison, I am hoping someone can point to convenient sources that would offer a simple overview of the legal (or customary) status of women (at least in Han culture) - particularly in the 18th or 19th centuries. I'm hoping to find something that addresses questions regarding divorce, dowries, property ownership, right to children, any public restraints on the use of physical punishments within families, whether or not women could be charged with crimes, testify in front of magistrates, etc. Likewise, I am curious about women's economic roles/rights or privileges (handling family money, conducting business in husband's absence or independently, etc). I assume there must be significant differences between gentry and peasant women.

Likewise, perhaps someone might point me toward whatever has been written on race in Chinese culture. Presumably race was not a Chinese category of thought, but something imported in the 19th century (Yen Fu's translations of Spencer). If so, how did Han people understand differences in physical appearance as well as culture within China before European influence? Was everyone capable of being civilized by adopting Han ways?

Thanks for your suggestions,

Steffani Pfeiffer
History Department
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ.

Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 10:44:35 -0500
From: Ming-te Pan <pan@Oswego.EDU>

This is a response to Steffani Pfeiffer's query on readings for an undergraduate survey that stresses the status of women in China. The best source for this purpose that I know of is Ebery, P. _Chinese Civilization: A Source Book_ New York: Free Press. 1993. It has a category titled gender and family from which you can find at least 10-12 excerpts relate to women and their status in China. Chronologically, it covers from Han (Ban Zhao's excerpt) to recent on child policy in China. Some excerpts that are not in the category can also be used to show the role of women in Chinese society, for example, p.104 A Woman's Hundred Years, and pp.360-363 the Spirit of the May Forth Movement by Deng Yingchao.

Ming-te Pan
423 Mahar Hall
Department of History
SUNY Oswego,
Oswego, NY 13126
fax: 315-341-5444

Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 10:44:35 -0500
From: Strahorn, Dr. Eric <estraho@fgcu.edu>

I would recommend A Daughter of Han by Ida Pruitt. It is the memoir of Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I've used it in the past with some success.

Eric Strahorn
Assistant Professor of History
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd. South
Fort Myers, Fl 33965-6565
(941) 590-7214