Women and marriage in China during the period of disunion
Women in the Period of Disunion (A.D. 220-581) enjoyed more social and familial freedom than their counterparts in late imperial China. Like her Han (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) predecessor, she was, to certain extent, free to express her emotional affection, to voice her preference in selecting a spouse, to initiate a divorce, and to remarry after she was widowed. More than her predecessor, however, she could choose to get married, or she could live a celibate life as a religious devotee. Within the family, a northern woman's status seemed to be higher than a southern woman's.The explanation for this is threefold. First, no single ideology at this time was strong enough to give instructions to marriage issues and to be taken seriously by the society. Lacking an organized church, contending religions were not in the position to do so. Second, even when the state intended to regulate marriage custom based on Confucian propriety, political division and aristocratic concern of self-perpetuation challenged its power and efficiency to accomplish its goal. Third, the Han legacy of a "pre-Confucian" society was maintained, if not reinforced, in the North by the invading nomadic culture.This dissertation consists of six chapters and a conclusion. Chapter one surveys the evolution of marriage ideas and practice prior to the Period of Disunion. Chapter two examines the marriage patterns by focusing on the ceremonial aspects to show the conflict and compromise between political promulgation and social custom. Chapter three presents the average life of a woman with regard to her social, educational, economic, and familial activities.Chapter four shows marital conflicts caused by the existence of "the other woman", and demonstrates that the differences between the North and the South were often revealed through these conflicts and their consequences. Chapter five examines the legal aspects of married life, such as crimes of sex, family violence and collective responsibility. Chapter six offers preliminary interpretations by assessing ideological, cultural, political and socio-economic factors that influenced the status of women and marriage. A brief conclusion at the end summarizes the discussion and relates important findings in this study to further research in Chinese social history.
- History