Position of Women in Chinese Society
What do you think of the position of women in traditional Chinese family? Women in ancient China did not hold any official position of power. They were portrayed as “objects” who were sold off into marriages and forced to have their feet bound to limit easy mobility. Male domination was prominent in all of China. Women served as servants, concubines, and prostitutes. Also, women had no say in who they could marry. Marriages were arranged, sometimes right from birth.
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However, like the idiom says, “the man is the head, the woman is the neck. She can turn the head any way she wants. ” When men ruled the general public, women controlled everything in the household. The head wife is the person who dictates what is bought in the household, how the children should be raised, and controlling the servants. Women played a vital role in the development of Chinese families in Buddhist beliefs.
This can be seen in Buddhist practices where women were granted some areas of empowerment. They were able to go on pilgrimages to Buddhist temples, give public lectures, and lead temple groups. During the reign of Empress Wu Ze Tian, Buddhism was at its height and strongly promoted the importance of women. Buddhists even claimed that Wu Ze Tian was justified in being an empress because she was a reincarnation of a previous female Buddhist saint.
During her reign, women held relatively high statuses in society and freedom. Women were also seen as such an important part of life due to their ability to produce male heirs who carry on the family name. The women who were able to give birth to males were given great respect. However, Confucianism was the complete opposite. Confucius placed women on the lower end of the patriarchal family structure. They were forbidden to attend social activities and were expected to remain hidden behind their husbands.
Like Jian Zang said in her article, few women were given the chance to receive formal education and were expected to devote their whole lives fulfilling filial piety. Even a women, Ban Zhao, wrote a book stating that “women should be silent, hard-working, and compliant. ” Even though she stresses the importance of male and female roles according to the yin-yang theory, she supports the dominance of the yang-male. However, even though on the surface it seemed like women were perceived as lower human beings than men, women held the secret power in the family and life.