The Westerner's view of Chinese culture is one that is filled with images of the submissive woman. Chinese society is predicated on a purely patriarchal system in which the needs of men remain the principle concern and focus of Chinese society. While it is indeed evident that this type of society has made it difficult for Chinese women to assert their authority and power, a close examination of women from this culture seems to suggest that Chinese women have been able to asset themselves in more subtle ways. While these methods of assertion are not widely viewed as threatening to the cultural status quo that has been developed in China, it is evident that women have been able to carve out a unique niche for themselves using the basic context of patriarchal society that is essential to Chinese culture. With the realization that women in Chinese culture have had to find more subtle methods for expressing themselves in such a highly patriarchal system, there is a clear impetus to examine how women have developed in the context of Chinese society.
[...] Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi The history that follows that of Empress Wei suggests that there were few women in China capable of recapturing what Empress Wu and Empress Wei had created. As such, it is not surprising to find that women did not make a substantial impact on the development of history and culture until the nineteenth century. During this time period Empress Dowager came to power. Reviewing how Empress Dowager came into power, Chien-Nung, Ingalls and Teng (1956) note that in 1861 Emperor Hsien-feng died. [...]
[...] While each of these religions utilized a different context for social development, each religious culture that developed in China saw women as a threat to the development of society. As such, deeply rooted methods of social oppression for women were used as a means to both perpetuate religion and ensure the overall development of China as the one true civilization (Michael, 1986). With this in mind, it is not surprising to find that women in ancient Chinese history did not play a central role in the writings and teachings that were produced. [...]
[...] During this time, Imperial China began to emerge as a dominant cultural and political power in the Far East. As noted by Michael (1986): Having established their social order, the Chinese came to regard their system as the most civilized form of human communal existence. In the interplay between theirs and neighboring cultures, Chinese order came to influence and dominate the adjacent countries of Central, East, and Southeast Asia, with the result that China's military and political sway extended through much of historical time beyond China proper over the neighboring peoples of Inner Asia, Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia (p. [...]
[...] Although women in China during the Imperial age assumed a purely submissive role, Empress Wu was able to make notable headway as a female ruler. Mackerras and Tung (1987) in their examination of the rule of Empress Wu argue that this woman was so effective because she, “simply reversed sexual roles and behaved no differently from a male in her position” (p. 65). These authors go on to note that even though images of Wu that have been captured throughout history show her as a benevolent and positive ruler, Wu was in fact known as a harsh ruler that took formidable steps to keep her subjects in line. [...]
[...] Clearly, the social and cultural dynamics that have been developed in the context of modern China are quite unique. The patriarchal system, which favors the needs and desires of men, is one that creates weak men incapable of managing their day-to-day lives. Rather than seeking to dominate men and remove them form power, women have made the decision to perpetuate the system and work within the system to ensure their happiness and security. When placed in this context, it is evident that the system of gender power balance that has developed in China is notable unique. [...]
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