Women in 17th Century China
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The paper outlines the storyline of Spence's book "The Death of Woman Wang" that involves a rural Chinese wife who ran away from her husband and was subsequently returned to him and killed by his own, bare hands. The paper looks at how Spence uses this woman's death as emblematic of the place of Chinese women in 17th century society, and the destabilization of society as a whole. The paper describes how individual women were used more as pawns in family quarrels over land, property and honor than treated as feeling human beings. The paper also looks at how Spence examines what constituted virtue in a woman, and how he addresses the complex ties of kinship and custom that circumscribed female lives.
From the Paper:"The title of The Death of Woman Wang by Jonathan D. Spence specifically refers to a rural Chinese wife who ran away from her husband and was subsequently returned to him, only to be killed by his own, bare hands. According to the law, she was classified as a fugitive from justice and her husband could subject her to a punishment of one hundred blows--or worse, according to accepted custom (Spence 120). The Woman Wang committed infidelity in her loveless marriage, and left with her lover, who abandoned her by the side of the road. This made her a kind of non-person in Chinese society, possessing neither a husband nor existing as a concubine. Even the relatively patriarchical authorities who chronicled her tale expressed sympathy for her sorrows during the era when she lived. Women had no ability to choose whom they married, and the Woman Wang's husband was cruel and quarrelsome."
Sample of Sources Used:
- Spence, Jonathan D. The Death of Woman Wang. New York: Penguin, 1998.
Cite this Book Review:
Women in 17th Century China (2010, November 14) Retrieved February 21, 2024, from https://www.academon.com/book-review/women-in-17th-century-china-145529/
"Women in 17th Century China" 14 November 2010. Web. 21 February. 2024. <https://www.academon.com/book-review/women-in-17th-century-china-145529/>