THE PROBLEM OF WOMAN
by Ban Zhao


Not all women were illiterate as is evidenced from the following composed by a Chinese female author. Living in the Han Dynasty, Ban Zhao (45-115? CE) wrote her "Lessons for Women" in which she discussed the values and behavoir of the ideal Confucian woman



Points to Ponder:
How does the author describe herself?
Do you believe her? Why? Why not?
In what position do the rituals place women in society?
Are women see as inferior to men?




I, the unworthy writer, am unsophisticated, unenlightened, and by nature unintelligent ... being careless, and by nature stupid ... at hours of leisure I have composed in seven chapters these instructions ....

On the third day after the birth of a girl the ancients observed three customs: to place the baby below the bed; to give her a potsherd with which to play; and to announce her birth to the ancestors by an offering. [Now] the Way of husband and wife is intimately connected with Yin and Yang and relates the individual to gods and ancestors. As Yin and Yang are not the same nature, so man and woman have different characteristics. The distinctive quality of the Yang is rigid; the function of the Yin is yielding. Man is honored for strength; a woman is beautiful on account of her gentleness.


Source:Nancy Lee Swan, trasns., Ban Zhao: Foremost Woman Scholar of China (Century Press, 1932).

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