Growing Up in the Inner Chambers in Late Tang Times: Moral Duties and Social Expectations
Keywords:Tang education, Han education, nüxun, womanly duties, social expectations
This study proposes to explore the moral precepts, daily duties, and ritual practices addressed to young girls in the late Tang 唐 period (eighth to tenth century). It relies on works written for women by women, which on the one hand reproduced some of the female tasks and virtues codified during the Han 漢 dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), but on the other introduced a number of time-specific innovations. These ranged from changes in religious beliefs, particularly due to the predominant role of Buddhism and Daoism in post-Han society, to the alteration of women’s domain of personal relationships, especially regarding their husbands, family members, and guests. By intercepting and highlighting such elements of discontinuity within preexisting tradition, this paper will analyse how young girls’ domain of agency within the family (the inner chambers) and the broader society changed over time. Moreover, through the examination of moral and ritual elements of female education, this work will provide fresh insights into how the roles of daughters, wives, and mothers were understood in the late Tang period, with a particular emphasis on their complementarity, rather than subordination, to male figures. The selected texts examined below, all belonging to the nüxun 女訓 (female instruction) genre of the late Tang period, will be treated as invaluable sources of the cultural history of women and family units between the eighth and tenth centuries.
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