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Women and Confucian Cultures in Premodern China, Korea, and Japan

Women and Confucian Cultures in Premodern China, Korea, and Japan

Dorothy Ko
JaHyun Kim Haboush
Joan R. Piggott
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    Women and Confucian Cultures in Premodern China, Korea, and Japan
    Book Description:

    Representing an unprecedented collaboration among international scholars from Asia, Europe, and the United States, this volume rewrites the history of East Asia by rethinking the contentious relationship between Confucianism and women. The authors discuss the absence of women in the Confucian canonical tradition and examine the presence of women in politics, family, education, and art in premodern China, Korea, and Japan. What emerges is a concept of Confucianism that is dynamic instead of monolithic in shaping the cultures of East Asian societies. As teachers, mothers, writers, and rulers, women were active agents in this process. Neither rebels nor victims, these women embraced aspects of official norms while resisting others. The essays present a powerful image of what it meant to be female and to live a woman’s life in a variety of social settings and historical circumstances. Challenging the conventional notion of Confucianism as an oppressive tradition that victimized women, this provocative book reveals it as a modern construct that does not reflect the social and cultural histories of East Asia before the nineteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92782-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Premodern East Asia
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Dorothy Ko, JaHyun Kim Haboush and Joan R. Piggott

    The purpose of this book is to open up a new field and a new way of viewing East Asian societies and histories. The old stereotype construes Asian women as victims of tradition, or Confucian patriarchy. Our premise is that to correct this simplistic picture we need to recognize that neither “woman” nor “Confucian tradition” is a uniform or timeless category. To restore both female subjectivity and historical complexity, the authors of each chapter begin by examining Asian categories and terms of analysis. They then analyze the complex constellations of constraint and opportunity shaping the lives of men and women...


    • CHAPTER ONE The Patriarchal Family Paradigm in Eighth-Century Japan
      (pp. 27-46)
      Hiroko Sekiguchi

      As it developed in early China, “Confucianism” can best be characterized as an ethical system built on hierarchies of human relationships known as the “three bonds” (sankō) and “five relations” (gorin). The three bonds distinguish primary functional pairings—those between ruler and minister, father and son, and husband and wife. The five relations, as they were articulated by the classical philosopher Mencius (ca. 372–289 B.C.E.), cover a broader spectrum of relationships: filiality between father and son, loyalty between ruler and minister, differential harmony between husband and wife, precedence between elder and younger sibs, and trust between friends.¹

      In China,...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Last Classical Female Sovereign: Kōken-Shōtoku Tennō
      (pp. 47-74)
      Joan R. Piggott

      Our task in this volume is to investigate the influence of the classical discourse of Chinese civilization, loosely termed “Confucian,“ on women’s lives across geography, class, and time in premodern East Asia. My focus is on the latter days of female kingship at Japan’s Nara-period court (710–84). Using the framework of the Japan-China dialectic discussed in the introduction, I explore facets of the dialectic at work as it redefined kingship as a fully gendered male script during the era of Shōmu Tennō’s daughter and successor, Kōken-Shōtoku Tennō (r. 749–58, 764–70).

      Historians of Japan writing in English—including...

    • CHAPTER THREE Representation of Females in Twelfth-Century Korean Historiography
      (pp. 75-96)
      Hai-soon Lee

      TheSamguk sagi(History of the Three Kingdoms), the oldest extant history of Korea, was compiled in 1145 under the general editorship of Kim Pusik (1075–1151), a renowned scholar and statesman. The “three kingdoms” are Koguryŏ, Paekche, and Silla, which were contending for hegemony on the Korean peninsula from the fourth to seventh centuries. As the first history of Korea written in the Confucian historiographical tradition,¹ theSamguk sagibecame a model in form and content for later official history writing. It was the first historical text that constructed and presented concepts of the Korean state, its kingship, ethnicity,...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Presence and Absence of Female Musicians and Music in China
      (pp. 97-120)
      Joseph S.C. Lam

      These quotations from theAnalects, a collection of Confucius’s words and deeds, encapsulate the Confucian view of music: promote proper music (yayue) and banish vernacular music (suyue).¹ Represented by the “Shao” and “Wu,” two legendary works of songs, dances, and instrumental music attributed to the mythical sageking Shun and King Wu of the Zhou dynasty (1099–256 B.C.E.), proper music is deemed essential to governance and self-cultivation alike. In contrast, vernacular music, represented by the wanton tunes of the Zheng state, corrupts men’s hearts and impedes fulfillment of their social and moral obligations. Among diverse kinds of vernacular music, music...


    • CHAPTER FIVE Women and the Transmission of Confucian Culture in Song China
      (pp. 123-141)
      Jian Zang

      This chapter focuses on the development of Confucian culture during the Northern and Southern Song dynasties (960–1279), taking rural culture as its point of parture. Its purpose is to explore how social attitudes held by people with similar locations in local society—a society formed by the nexus of blood and territorial relations—became crystallized as taken-for-granted habits.¹ These habits, in turn, influenced Confucian ethical thinking on gender relations and women. Furthermore, without positing a dichotomous relationship between “elite culture” and “peasant culture,” or between orality and the written canon, this chapter is concerned with the transmission of norms...

    • CHAPTER SIX Propagating Female Virtues in Chosŏn Korea
      (pp. 142-169)
      Martina Deuchler

      Women do not figure prominently in Korean historiography past or present. To be sure, biographies of “virtuous women” (yŏllyŏ) constituted a separate historiographical category since Chinese-style writing of history was adopted in Korea. The earliest extant examples are contained in Kim Pusik’s (1075–1151)History of the Three Kingdoms(Samguk sagi), discussed in this volume by Lee Hai-soon. The short preface that introduced the biographies of virtuous women (jŏllyŏjŏn) in the mid-fifteenth-centuryHistory of Koryŏ(Koryŏsa) states:

      In olden times, when a girl was born, she received education from a nurse; she grew up, she received instruction from a [female]...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN State Indoctrination of Filial Piety in Tokugawa Japan: Sons and Daughters in the Official Records of Filial Piety
      (pp. 170-190)
      Noriko Sugano

      The household (ie), a corporate unit comprising ancestors, family members, and descendants, constituted the basic socioeconomic unit in early modern Japan, also called the Tokugawa period (1600–1868). This principle held true for the shogun at the apex of government (who distinguished himself from his kin by using Tokugawa as his surname), the daimyo who ruled their domains at the shogun’s behest but without his interference, and the warriors (samurai) who served them and ran their administrations from the cities and castle towns, as well as the peasants, merchants, and artisans. In practice, the organization of the household varied from...


    • CHAPTER EIGHT Norms and Texts for Women’s Education in Tokugawa Japan
      (pp. 193-218)
      Martha C. Tocco

      The educational reformer Tsuda Ume (1864–1929) is one of Japan’s best known “great women” of the modern period. As the endearing youngest member of the first female delegation sent by the Meiji government to study abroad, six-year-old Ume claimed a permanent place in the affections of subsequent generations of Japanese. She arrived at her destination, Washington, D.C., in February 1872, “in a blinding snowstorm, in ill-fitting, ready-made American garments, and wrapped in [a] big red shawl.”¹ Later that spring she sent her mother what appears to have been her first and last letter home that was written in Japanese.²...

    • CHAPTER NINE Competing Claims on Womanly Virtue in Late Imperial China
      (pp. 219-248)
      Fangqin Du and Susan Mann

      Virtue, in China’s Confucian culture, was displayed in action. Rarely were the Confucian virtues filial piety (xiao), righteousness (yi), loyalty (zhong), or fidelity (jie) defined in the abstract. Accordingly, biographies in China’s official dynastic histories were arranged by category, to illustrate specific Confucian virtues.¹ As the virtuous conduct expected of men differed from that expected of women, official biographies provide the historian with a map charting shifts in gender and virtue through time. Male virtues remain relatively constant throughout the historical record, featuring three paradigmatic forms of exemplary conduct. Sons are honored for filiality; officials are honored for loyalty; and...


    • CHAPTER TEN Discipline and Transformation: Body and Practice in the Lives of Daoist Holy Women of Tang China
      (pp. 251-278)
      Suzanne E. Cahill

      This study investigates an extraordinary group of women who lived in the context of Confucian society: Daoist holy women of the Tang dynasty (618–907). It examines issues of female body and text and highlights the centrality of the body as the location of practice and change. Here I link body, gender, discipline, and liberation in the lives of these women. All the chapters in this volume fracture and complicate our definitions of “Confucianism.” This chapter promotes inclusive understandings of Confucianism and discourages superficial contrasts between Daoist and Confucian values.

      We begin by admitting the relativity of our terms. Such...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Versions and Subversions: Patriarchy and Polygamy in Korean Narratives
      (pp. 279-304)
      JaHyun Kim Haboush

      In Korea, the patriarchal system that evolved during the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) was closely linked to the Confucianization of society as a whole. Though certain elements of patriarchy were in place before the Chosŏn, the patriarchal family structure combined with strict patrilineality was implemented under the Chosŏn state, which subscribed to a Confucian social vision. Thus patriarchy was equated with Confucianism, which has been seen as a force with adverse effects on women. It has been established that as the native structure was incorporated into Confucian patriarchy, women, at least upper-class yangban women, lost much of their social space,...

    (pp. 305-312)
    (pp. 313-316)
    (pp. 317-320)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 321-337)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)