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Motherhood in early China.

Author: Smadar Winter; University of Chicago.
Publisher: 2013.
Dissertation: Ph. D. University of Chicago, Division of the Humanities, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations 2013
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript   Archival Material   Computer File : English
Summary:
This dissertation studies the practices and ideologies that shaped motherhood in China in the period spanning the Shang through the Han dynasties. By demonstrating that much cultural attention was dedicated to articulating, negotiating, and establishing the meanings and the limits of the maternal role, this dissertation counters prevailing scholarly opinions about motherhood in early China and participates in a
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Details

Material Type: Thesis/dissertation, Manuscript, Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Computer File, Archival Material, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Smadar Winter; University of Chicago.
ISBN: 9781303231858 1303231859
OCLC Number: 875700962
Notes: Advisor: Edward L. Shaughnessy.
Description: 239 pages

Abstract:

This dissertation studies the practices and ideologies that shaped motherhood in China in the period spanning the Shang through the Han dynasties. By demonstrating that much cultural attention was dedicated to articulating, negotiating, and establishing the meanings and the limits of the maternal role, this dissertation counters prevailing scholarly opinions about motherhood in early China and participates in a growing effort to write the history of women and gender relations. It exposes aspects of the lived experience of early Chinese women and contributes to a better understanding of how early Chinese gender identities were historically constructed. Current scholarly opinions about motherhood in early China range widely, with some scholars holding that it was ignored, and others presenting it as similar to fatherhood, or likewise as a position of great power. Drawing on oracle bones and bronze inscriptions, historical documents, ritual manuals, didactic essays, as well as philosophical writings, legal materials, poetic expressions, and medical manuscripts, this dissertation charts a different course. It shows that motherhood was neither ignored, nor perceived as undifferentiated from fatherhood, nor highly elevated, but rather that it was always described -- and prescribed -- in relation to a larger, stronger, and more important patriarchal, patrilineal, social order.

The Introduction discusses why motherhood has only recently become a topic for study in the West and the reasons for the limited scope of studies of early Chinese motherhood. It surveys previous Western and Chinese studies of motherhood in early China, as well as general studies of women in early China that contain material about early Chinese mothers.

Chapter One surveys late Shang and Western Zhou inscribed bronze vessels made for, or by, mothers. It shows that mothers received more sacrifice than women occupying other roles in the family, but nevertheless that considerable gaps existed between the amount -- and the significance -- of sacrifice offered to female and male ancestors. The chapter also identifies three genealogies alongside the sanctioned genealogy between fathers and sons: genealogies between mothers and daughters, including transmission of wealth; between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law; and between mothers and sons.

Chapter Two examines rites and rituals of mourning, marriage, and birth included in the Yi li and the Li ji. It shows that ritual practices defined motherhood as inferior, conditioned, mediated, or even created, by fathers. Ritual regulations also weakened motherhood by dividing it between many care-takers and by establishing the bond between father and son as the main affective bond in the family.

Chapter Three analyzes historical accounts of mothers and motherhood in the Zuo zhuan and the Lie nu zhuan. It shows mothers as agents of transformation, early educators, and remonstrators to their sons, but also as possible threats. All these roles were structured to acknowledge but limit the power of mothers. In delineating various constructions of motherhood, this dissertation deepens our knowledge not only of early Chinese women but also of the structure, organization, ideals and realities of broader society in early China.

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