This deeply researched book provides an original history of Chinese women during the pivotal Song and Yuan dynasties (960–1368). Bret Hinsch explores the most important aspects of female life in this era―political power, family, work, inheritance, religious roles, and emotions―and considers why the status of women declined during this period.
Chronology of Dynasties and Eras
8 The Conquest Dynasties
Conclusion: The Tang-Song Transition and Women’s History
The period between the Tang (618–917) and Song (960–1279) dynasties was a time of major transition in Chinese history. As the civil servant examination became a primary channel for upward social mobility and economic development, reaching a level unparalleled in the world then, China transformed from an aristocratic caste society to a meritocratic one, reshaping various aspects of people's social lives. Against this backdrop, Hinsch, author of several previous books on women in Chinese history, has produced an excellent and engaging overview of women’s lives during the Song and the following Yuan (1271–1368) eras. Drawing on a large body of literature in both Chinese and English, Hinsch examines women’s conditions in the spheres of family, government, wealth and inheritance, religion, learning, virtue, and social image. Female lives during the conquest dynasties of Liao (916–1125) and Jin (1115–1234) are also explored. Hinsch makes a strong argument that, contrary to the traditional belief that the Song dynasty, with its emphasis on ritual orthodoxy and the rise of neo-Confucianism, marked the drastic decline of women’s status in imperial China, it is really the conquest dynasties, in particular Yuan, that enabled such a change. Highly recommended. General readers through faculty.
Bret Hinsch’s wide-ranging and engagingly-written book lets us see a fascinating period in Chinese history from a different perspective: how it shaped the lives of women at all social levels.
This book is an excellent overview of women’s lives in Song and Yuan China. The research is meticulous and thorough, based on a careful synthesis of a large body of secondary literature. For students and general readers alike, the book is a balanced, accessible, and very useful introduction to the subject. Presenting the most up-to-date scholarly research and often-complex debates in an engaging style, Hinsch has accomplished a challenging task in an admirable manner.
3/31/22, Choice: This book was featured in a roundup of top community college titles.