China: Reunification, Achievement, and the Low Status of Women

China: Reunification, Achievement, and the Low Status of Women

China: Reunification, Achievement, and the Low Status of Women


“Female seclusion was also accomplished through foot binding, a practice that began in the Song period among elite women and gradually was adopted by the vast majority of the female population in central and northern China. Foot binding began when a girl was about six; the toes of her foot were bent under the ball and wrapped tightly with long bandages so that their growth was stunted. Gradually her foot assumed a pointed shape that erotic literature described as a lotus blossom, and the intense pain of the earliest years lessened somewhat, though the bandages were required for the rest of her life to maintain the foot in its small size. Foot binding did not totally immobilize women, for peasant women worked in the fields and in cloth production with bound feet, but it prevented them from traveling great distances. Bound feet became a requirement for marriage, so that mothers bound the feet of their daughters in the hopes that they might make a better match; they continued to do so until the 20th century, even when the practice was officially forbidden.

Foot binding was not accepted by other East Asian societies, such as Korea and Vietnam, though they did adopt Confucian notions from China that restricted women’s capacities to perform ceremonies of ancestor worship and inherit family land. Women’s rights to land also decreased in Japan, but this was largely the result of the growing importance of the military under the shogunate, as land was increasingly given only to those who fought.

In the earliest part of the postclassical period, Japan stood in sharp contrast to China as a society in which women played a significant public role. The Japanese emperors trace their family ancestry to a female deity, the sun goddess Amaterasu, and half of the rulers of Japan during the period 592 – 770 were empresses who ruled in their own right, not simply as regents. Women were religious leaders in traditional Japanese religion (which later came to be called Shinto), though this also included negative ideas about women as a source of pollution through menstruation and childbirth. In the Heian period (9th – 12th centuries), while Japanese men were imitating Chinese classics, women such as Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon were creating the masterpieces of Japanese literature; in no other of the world’s cultures did a work by a woman reach the stature of The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu’s main work.” ~ Experiencing World History

1-Describe the process of foot binding. ______

2-Discuss the impact of foot binding on women in China? ______

3-Compare and contrast the status of women in East Asian societies. ______

4-Discuss the role of women in Japanese history. ______

5-What was unique about the role of women in Japan compared to other East Asian societies? ______

  1. The Collapse of the Han Dynasty
  1. Around 220 C.E.  more than three centuries of political fragmentation
  2. Incursion of northern nomads, many of whom adopted Chinese customs
  3. Disunity considered unnatural and weakened Confucianism’s hold on Chinagreater acceptance of Buddhism and Daoism among elite
  4. Also beginning of a Chinese migration southward toward the Yangzi River
  5. Unlike fall of the western Roman Empire where political fragmentation proved a permanent condition, China regained unity under the Sui dynasty
  1. Sui Dynasty (589-618)
  1. Vast extension of the country’s canal system, stretching some 1,200 miles
  1. Canals linked northern and southern China (Started Grand Canal)
  1. But ruthlessness of Sui emperors and a futile military campaign to conquer Korea exhausted the state’s resources and alienated people
  2. Tang (618-907) and the Song (960-1279) dynasties followed
  1. Tang and Song Dynasties
  1. Established patterns of Chinese life that endured into the twentieth century
  2. “Golden Age” of arts and literature
  3. Explosion of scholarship gave rise to Neo-Confucianism, reviving it while incorporating some insights from Buddhism and Daoism
  4. Examination system revived, encouraged by ability to print books for first time in historySelecting officials on the basis of merit
  5. Despite state efforts to periodically redistribute land in favor of peasants, families of large landowners continued to encroach on peasant plots
  6. China experienced rapid population growth
  7. But agricultural achievements, particularly with the adoption of a fast-ripening and drought-resistant strain of rice from Vietnam
  8. Most urbanized country in the worldSong capital of Hangzhou
J. Inventions in printing, woodblock and movable type and shipbuilding
K. Chinese invention of gunpowder
L. Most highly commercialized society
  1. In addition, government demands for taxes paid in cash rather than in kind required peasants to sell something in order to meet their obligations
  2. Growing use of paper money
  1. Women in the Song Dynasty
  1. “Golden Age” was less “golden” for women
  2. Under the influence of steppe nomads, women led less restricted lives
    1. Elite women of the Tang dynasty had participated in social life
  1. But by the Song dynasty, a reviving Confucianism and rapid economic growth seemed to tighten patriarchal restrictions on women
  1. Once again Confucian writers highlighted the subordination of women
  2. But the most compelling expression of a tightening patriarchyfoot binding
  1. Beginning apparently among dancers and courtesans in the tenth or eleventh century C.E., this practice involved the tight wrapping of young girls’ feet, usually breaking the bones of the foot - causing intense pain
  1. During the Tang dynasty, foot binding spread widely among elite families and later became even more widespread in Chinese society
  2. Associated with new images of female beauty and eroticism
  3. Foot binding restricted women to the “inner quarters”pain walking
  1. China and the Northern Nomads
  1. From early times to nineteenth century, China’s most enduring interaction with foreigners lay to north, involving nomadic pastoralists of steppes
  2. Nomads were drawn to China in order to obtain resources
  3. From nomads’ point of view, threat often came from the Chinese who built Great Wall to keep nomads out, and often unwilling to allow pastoral peoples easy access to trading opportunities within China
  4. And yet China needed the nomads, particularly its horses for military
  5. Nomads also controlled much of the Silk Road trading network
  6. Chinese came to view China as the “middle kingdom” or the center of the world, infinitely superior to the “barbarians” beyond its borders
  7. Established “Tribute system”Set of practices that required non-Chinese to acknowledge Chinese superiority
  8. Foreigners had to perform the kowtow

Complete the Graphic Organizer Below:

Strayer Questions:

  • Why are the centuries of the Tang and Song dynasties in China sometimes referred to as a "golden age"?
  • In what ways did women's lives change during the Tang and Song dynasties?
  • How did the Chinese and their nomadic neighbors to the north view each other?
  • What assumptions underlie the tribute system?
  • How did the tribute system in practice differ from the ideal Chinese understanding of its operation?
  • In what ways did China and the nomads influence each other?

  1. Neo-Confucianism incorporated ideas from which of the following belief systems that had grown in popularity in China?
I. Hinduism
II. Buddhism
III. Daoism
IV. Islam
(A)I and II
(B)II and III
(C)III and IV
(D)I, II, and III
(E)II, III, and IV
  1. Which practice dates from the Song era?
(A)Foot binding
(B)Arranged marriage
(D)Divorce Rights
(E)One-Child Policy
  1. Which is not a native Chinese invention?
(A)Explosive powder
(B)Magnetic compass
(C)Movable type
(D)Paper money
(E)Steam-powered machinery /
  1. During the 1100s, ______was the world’s most urbanized society.
(A)The Tang Dynasty
(B)The Song Dynasty
(C)The Liao Empire
(D)The Jin Empire
(E)The Mongol Empire
  1. Which do historians point to as the key infrastructural development of the Tang-Song era?
(A)Construction of the Great Wall
(B)Construction of a national highway system
(C)Construction of the Forbidden City
(D)Construction of the Grand Canal
(E)Construction of the port at Canton
  1. Which of the following is NOT a nomadic group that pressured dynastic rule at some point over the course of Chinese history?

Thesis Practice: Craft a thesis incorporating concepts of continuity and change in China from the Han Dynasty through the Song Dynasty. ______