Women and the Family in Chinese History (Asia's Transformations/Critical Asian Scholarship)
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This is a collection of essays by one of the leading scholars of Chinese history, Patricia Buckley. In the essays she has selected for this fascinating volume, Professor Ebrey explores features of the Chinese family, gender and kinship systems as practices and ideas intimately connected to history and therefore subject to change over time. The essays cover topics ranging from dowries and the sale of women into forced concubinary, to the excesses of the imperial harem, excruciating pain of footbinding, and Confucian ideas of womanly virtue.
Patricia Ebrey places these sociological analyses of women within the family in an historical context, analysing the development of the wider kinship system. Her work provides an overview of the early modern period, with a specific focus on the Song period (920-1276), a time of marked social and cultural change, and considered to be the beginning of the modern period in Chinese history.
With its wide-ranging examination of issues relating to women and the family, this book will be essential reading to scholars of Chinese history and gender studies.
ritual, and ordinary social life between wives and concubines were substantial. Wives were acquired though a betrothal process that entailed exchange of gifts and ceremonies; concubines were purchased through a market in female labor much as maids were. A wife’s relatives became kin of her husband and his family; a concubine’s did not. A man could take as many concubines as he could afford; he could marry only one wife. The sons of a concubine had the same rights of inheritance as the sons of a
attention to geomancy, and in this essay I try to show that part of the context of the history of cremation is folk beliefs about bodies, ghosts, and graves. In popular belief, the dead suffered more from their bones being left to rest in the wrong place than from the method through which they were reduced to bones. Although I have taken considerable pains to demonstrate that the Chinese family, kinship, and gender systems were not unchanging, I do not deny that there are some remarkable
rites became more popular (for religious and social reasons), it would have become more crucial to bury agnates near each other: Some concentration of graves would ensure that as the number of generations increased, old tombs would not be neglected, for many graves could then be visited on a single day. As more generations of graves came to be visited, a larger descent group would have a ritual focus. This focus would provide a principle for deciding who was a member of the descent group (whether
that the process would often have been a dynamic one; once the social effects of worshiping at graves came to be understood, people who wished to promote solidarity among their kin probably would urge that rites at the grave of their earliest ancestor be instituted. Yet I would stress the signiﬁcance of the grave rites in and of themselves. By putting emphasis on the rituals, I am going counter to the general model of Chinese kinship development that draws largely on the tradition of British
century it was common for educated men to see the ideal descent group (i.e., group of zuren or zongren) as one organized as a jia. Indeed, communal families continued to appear – and be praised – through the Yuan, Ming, and Qing.77 Development of descent group organization 123 The Zheng family of Jinhua, perhaps the most famous communal family, was founded in the eleventh century and attracted much notice in the late Yuan and early Ming; even long after the family’s demise it continued to be