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Improvements of Chinese Women's Education

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Improvements of Chinese Women’s Education

It is around the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) period, where women’s education was improved.  From pre-modern times in China, women’s education was very limited to learning of social principle and is heavily pressured to become a virtuous wife and good mother.  But throughout centuries tremendous changes have taken place that had altered women’s education. This wouldn’t have happen if it weren’t for many inspiring people like Luo Quilan (1755-1813), Zhang Xuecheng (1738-1801), Yuan Mei (1716-1797). All of them playing an important key role in improving women’s education. And it isn’t until 1895 girls’ schools were establish and following that in the 1920s where Chinese women can officially enrolled in Beijing University. When the people’s Republic of China was formed Chinese women role has changed for the better given that they can since enrolled in schools at all levels. Such developments in modern education had some conflict that arrives for many women. More specifically, the traditional family life like being a good mother had been put aside because more women are pursuing a modern career.

        In order to fully comprehend women’s pre modern education and its improvement we must first look at the women’s role and thinking in history. Strictly governed by a moral code and traditional customs like the three obedience and four virtues, which is a code that is expected out of women. The three obedience which is regards to being obedient to their father before marriage, to their husbands when married and to their sons when their husbands passed away. Women are to assert themselves as widow, because it is looked as great disrespect to the husband that passed away if they decided to remarry. A great example would be Luo Quilan after her husband passed, she asserted herself to remain a widow.

        From childhood to married adult life, women’s education if any at all, is usually taken place at home and the girls were taught more of just moral values and how to become a good wife. It is men the women should center themselves around. That’s why most women usually prepare themselves to either becoming a wife, or entertainer (sing song girls). Although some women did benefit from being home taught because they happen to been born into a family that could teach them literacy or being married to a husband that teaches them how to write. For example Ban Zhau, a famous female writer during East Han period and Luo Qilan a famous poet and artist that was taught under Yuan Mei.  Although there are a some number of women who are capable of writing and painting, in contrast to the majority of female population this is a very small portion to majority women that is not well educated.

        By the Ming and Qing periods the women’s education take bigger leap forward. For example Gu Ruopu (1592-1681) was a widow and author. She became a teacher and writer and, female role model for women’s education.  Luo Qilan is also a huge advocate for women’s education because in her preface she mentions “now concerning the fate of a young woman: if she is fortunate enough to be married to a man of taste and they are able to compose verses in harmony, he will certainly cherish her writings and ensure they do not disappear. If, on the other hand, she meets a who is “not a man, and who does not understand the tones, he may take her poems and use them to seal pickle jars. Does this not make the transmission of women’s writings difficult?” which is basically advocates for women telling people that it isn’t easy for women to achieve education. And there are some more women that became advocate for women’s education that moved beyond the tension between virtue and talent. Like the poet Yuan Mei who promoted women’s role as creative writers and welcome women students such as mention earlier Luo Qilan. The historian Zhang Xuecheng in his own women’s learning expressed the idea that the pursuit of poetry by women undermined the ritual behavior that governs society. This furthers my point in his own words he’s said “Zhang (p.797): the women’s learning of ancient time always began with the rites and then turned to poetry. The women’s learning of today is just the reverse; it uses poetry to destroy the rites.” From so on women’s literature keeps on flourishing during the Qing Dynasty and the rise of the popularity of women’s literature have been improved. Near the closing era of the Qing dynasty the birth of a girl’s school system has expanded into higher education.



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