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Role of Women in the Book of Rites

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Role of women in the Book of Rites (Chinese text)

In her book on Religious Women, Carmody tells of the role of women according to the Chinese text. The role of women in the Chinese is clearly demonstrated in the article. The distinction in gender role is shown from the very early years of life. For instance, the birth of a male child was received with great joy because the male child played a major role in carrying on the family lineage. The status of women in ancient China was very low, mainly because the family name was not dependent on women. In classical China, the main purpose of a woman was to marry and continue the family line of her husband. Thus, the most significant role of a woman in this era was procreation. A woman in classical China who was not blessed with a son, was seen as a failure to the very purpose of what she was married into her husband family for, procreation. Further, a married woman who was not able to produce children could be sent back to her family as a disgrace. The cultural and societal norms attributed the failure to bear a son to a woman rather than to a man.

Filial piety, an important aspect mentioned in the Chinese text was of less importance for daughters than sons. When a woman married, she was seen as an extension of her husband family. For this reason the woman had to show her filial piety to her husband’s parents and not to her parents, therefore, once a woman marry, the role of daughter-in-law took precedence over the role of daughter.

Women in classical China were constantly under the microscope of men. When a woman married her husband, it was expected that she was a virgin to eliminate any doubt as to who is the father of her child. Men were not subjected to this scrutiny. Other than the responsibility of procreation, the Chinese woman role was that of household. Women only had status and authority in the domestic aspects of society. Women were not seen as lover, friends or sexual partner for pleasure. Women did not receive much affection. The role of a woman in the family was to provide ritual correctness to ancestors, be hardworking, modest, and be subservient and devoted to her husband. Women were seen as property of their husbands.

According to our text, Confucian ideology called for specific behaviors for women. Obedience was regarded as one of the highest virtues of women. Women were honored or dishonored



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