Languages & Cultures of East Asia

Trad 101, Sections 18-19-20-21   Fall 2000

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Lecture Outline, 9/27/00 - Traditional Roles of Women in China

Confucius The Analects

"Women and people of little minds are difficult to cultivate"

Three things to follow and four virtues:
     a) father, husband, son
     b) morality, appearance, craft, speech

"There are three things that are considered to be unfilial,
among which not having a son is the most serious."

     more than one wife (traditional)
     abortion (modern)

Decline in status of women

a) footbinding
     6 or 7 years old
     gentility, high-class, no "wandering"
     900 AD. -- 1900 AD.

b) widow chastity: government rewards
     "Starving to death is a small matter:
     losing chastity is an extremely great matter."

Women in old age
     happiest life stage
     high status (because she has given birth to a son,
          has arranged her son's marriage, is in older age)
     doesn't have to work much
     can appear at public gatherings, smoke in public, be outspoken

     tension between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law
     wife treated harshly or cruelly
     husband not supposed to take his wife's side

What's going on now

1. Education

China: no obvious difference between men and women
Japan: women don't go as far
Korea: women don't go as far
US: roughly equal

2. Employment

a. work or not?
China: In urban areas most women work; rural areas different
Japan: work before marriage; quit after a child is born
Korea: less than half of employable women are employed
US: more than half, but fewer than men
b. positions
China: still not achieving high positions
Japan: same
Korea: same
US: same

3. Adulthood/marriage: when does one reach adulthood?

China: men and women reach adulthood regardless of marriage
Japan: marriage more important for women than men
Korea: men and women reach adulthood only after marriage
US: same as China

4. Who holds power?

China: more or less equal in many aspects
Japan: women in domestic areas
Korea: same as Japan
US: more or less equal in many aspects

Modern Chinese women's dilemma:
     difficulty in finding a spouse

     "Good men always get married, while good women remain single."

The modern 'three things to follow and four abilities':
     a) words, will, follow
     b) listen, tolerate, wait, spend

Although Confucianism is responsible for the subordinate role of women in Asia, Chinese women have a higher status than Japanese women or Korean women.

Gender and Grammar in Chinese

Hardly any marking of gender on the grammar level.

Gender marking is covert in Chinese

1. Address/reference shows asymmetry
xiangsheng 'Mr.' xiaojie 'Miss'
taitai 'Mrs.'
nushi 'Madam'

2. Kin terms
     Having a baby boy -- nong zhang 'to make jade'
     Having a baby girl -- nong wa 'to make earthenware'

     qianjin 'a thousand pieces of gold'

unmarked form for the entire class or masculine:
     sunzi 'grandchild' or 'grandson'

3. Occupational terms
     same as Japanese
     doctor, mayor, writer

4. Pejorative terms
     More pejorative terms referring to women than to men

     chang she fu 'long-tongued woman'
     shi san dian 'thirteen points' -'silly-acting, ridiculous'

5. word order
     conjunctions: same as Japanese, English

     fu mu 'father and mother'
     zi nu 'sons and daughters'

     exception: yin yang 'feminine and masculine'

6. Given names
     can see the expectations they have for the children
     boys: qiang 'strong', zhong 'loyal', xiong 'virile', zong 'ancestors'
     girls: jing 'quiet', mei 'beauty', yu 'jade', zhu 'jewel', zhao di 'bring in brother'

Gender marking is covert in Chinese

1. Gender difference comparison (grammatical)

addressee speaker
Chinese no no
Japanese yes yes
Korean yes yes
English no no

2. Use masculine form for the entire class

Chinese yes
Japanese yes
Korean   ?
English yes

3. More pejorative terms referring to women than to men

Chinese yes
Japanese   ?
Korean   ?
English yes

4. Masculine before feminine in word order

Chinese yes
Japanese yes
Korean yes
English yes