This groundbreaking work provides an original and deeply knowledgeable overview of Chinese women and gender relations during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Bret Hinsch explores in detail the central aspects of female life in this era, including family and marriage, motherhood, political power, work, inheritance, education, religious roles, and virtues. He considers not only the lived world of women, but also delves into their emotional life and the ideals they pursued. Drawing on a wide range of Western and Chinese primary and secondary sources—including standard histories, poetry, prose literature, and epitaphs—Hinsch makes an important period of Chinese women’s history accessible to Western readers.
Bret Hinsch is professor of history at Fo Guang University, Yilan, Taiwan. He is the author of Women in Ancient China, Women in Early Medieval China, Women in Early Imperial China, Women in Imperial China, Masculinities in Chinese History, and Women in Song and Yuan China.
Chronology of Dynasties
With its accomplished female poets and painters and the growth of an elite cult of romantic love, the Ming dynasty may appear to modern eyes as a time when Chinese women achieved an unusual degree of freedom for self-realization and expression. But we can only understand the forms that such self-realization took, and its limits, if we acknowledge how they were embedded in an elaborate neo-Confucian morality that, partly thanks to an expanding print culture, penetrated steadily deeper into Ming society. Hinsch’s richly detailed and nuanced introduction to women’s lives and identities emphasizes the connections between social control, material prosperity, and moral conservatism that underpinned the cultural flowering of the Great Ming.
Using a wide range of primary and secondary sources in Chinese and English, Bret Hinsch explores issues of family, wealth, power, education, and belief in the lives of the women of the Ming dynasty. His creative use of women’s poetry as a key to their intellectual and emotional lives is a particular strength of this volume.