Read Disgraceful Matters: The Politics of Chastity in Eighteenth-Century China by Janet M. Theiss Online

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Looking beyond the familiar trappings of the cult of female chastity—such as hagiographies of widows and chastity shrines--in late imperial China, this book explores the cult's political significance and practical ramifications in everyday life during the eighteenth century. In the first full-length study of the subject, Janet Theiss examines a vast number of laws, legal cLooking beyond the familiar trappings of the cult of female chastity—such as hagiographies of widows and chastity shrines--in late imperial China, this book explores the cult's political significance and practical ramifications in everyday life during the eighteenth century. In the first full-length study of the subject, Janet Theiss examines a vast number of laws, legal cases, regulations, and policies to illustrate the social and political processes through which female virtue was defined, enforced, and contested. Along the way, she provides rich details of social life and cultural practices among ordinary Chinese people through narratives of criminal cases of sexual assault, harassment, adultery, and domestic violence....

Title : Disgraceful Matters: The Politics of Chastity in Eighteenth-Century China
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ISBN : 9780520240339
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 296 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Disgraceful Matters: The Politics of Chastity in Eighteenth-Century China Reviews

  • Mel
    2018-10-19 00:13

    I bought this book last week at Waterstones as it was nice to see an academic book about Qing women on sale and I figured I should treat myself after reading all the library books over the past couple weeks. I have to say I thought this book was excellent. Unlike Mann and Ko's books on Qing gender studies this book looked at the lives of ordinary people as well as the elite and as such I thought it provided an interesting insight. Theiss used court documents of legal cases involving women who committed suicide, who sued for rape or unwanted sexual advances, and murder cases. She drew on a large selection of records (exact number to be added when I return home and can check the book) from the 18th century. From these records, and Qing writing about chastity she was able to outline the view of the government towards women and the changing attitudes towards chastity. The first thing that struck me was that the chastity cult was actually intended to save the lives of women. Apparently the government thought that women were throwing their lives away needlessly following their husbands into death and that it was more important to reward the virtuous women who kept living, rather than those who committed suicide. There was also concern that women were being forced into suicide by their husband's family. It was also decided that clans had the right to punish people for minor offenses. However frequently there seemed to be cases brought to court where people had been killed by the clan and this was deemed inappropriate. One thing that struck me from reading this book was how common murder, even accidental murder, was in most of these cases. Nearly all discussed involved accidently beating a man or woman to death, or stabbing them in drunken anger. This gave a rather different perspective on the Qing than the civilised veneer of the literati. Rape was punishable by death, if you were caught having "illicit sex" and it was consensual then if the husband caught the pair he could kill both instantly without fear of any punishment, if however he waited then he'd be punished. However, the punishments for consensual illicit sex were usually banishment rather than death. Here they found themselves in an interesting position as they had difficulty determining what was and wasn't consensual. The list of what constituted a rape were quite clear, clothes had to be torn, injuries had to be sustained and neighbours had to have heard the victims cries. If these weren't in evidence the crime could be transferred to coercion then agreement. (For example if a woman stopped protesting because the guy threatened to kill her - this was considered giving permission!) One way that it was determined whether or not a woman had been raped was if she committed suicide from the shame, this of course promoted suicide rather than decreasing it. However it was not just rape that led women to commit suicide, unwanted flirtation was enough for some women to feel offended and commit suicide. The law stated that in the case of flirtation a man would be sentenced to death if he caused the suicide of a woman. Interestingly in the cases that Theiss studied it was far more common for a woman to kill herself from unwanted flirtation than it was from rape. In the cases where the woman did die it was often because her family had done nothing to support her after the fact, and did not press charges against the man. There were a lot of interesting debates within this book. It gave a good insight into the gender problems of the Qing, but what surprised me the most was that the chastity cult seemed to be trying to protect women more than put them in their place. It also reminded me a lot of Xifeng in Dream of Red Mansions, the first death that she is responsible for is that of a family member who was trying to sleep with her. It is interesting to see think about that now after having read this book. All told a very enjoyable read, recommended to anyone interested in Qing gender relations and the legality of rape and women's status under the law.