Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters

clip image002 thumb12 Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters

It is generally accepted that Chinese women were inferior to their male counterparts in the feudal society. This can be well illustrated in the morals for women in old times which could be best summarized as “San Cong Si De”(Three Obedience and Four Virtues for women—Three Obedience includes obeying her father before marriage, her husband when married, and her sons in widowhood and Four Virtues refers to morality, proper speech, modest manner and diligent work). However, from the Chinese characters, we can see that women once enjoyed high social status at the beginning of Chinese civilization.

clip image004 thumb7 Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese charactersFrom the formation of Chinese characters, we could tell for sure that China at first was a matriarchal society which was dominated by women. It is a well known fact that people value their family names highly in Chinese culture. And it is the character for women nv thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  and that for life  sheng thumb1 Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters that makes the character for family name (?). And the women part nv thumb1 Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  and the part for children zi thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  makes the character for good hao thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters .It is women giving birth to their children that guarantees the blood line of a certain family. So it is quite natural that women enjoyed the most rights and made decisions on important occasions. Not only that, characters found in inscriptions on oracle bones indicate that most noble families used the characters containing the women part, such as Jiji thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  Guigui2 thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters Sisi thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters Yaoyao thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters , Jiangjiang thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  Loulou thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  Jiji2 thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  , Yinyin thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters ?Anan thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  and so on, which clearly shows the high social status of women at that time.

Yet, being an agricultural society, it is the physical strength that determines one’s social status. As time went on, men who are blessed with greater strength are gradually taking over the social power and the society finally changed into a patriarchal one. This trend also left its mark on the Chinese language. After the Xia Dynasty, few family names bear the character for women. The family name Jiji2 thumb1 Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  which consisted of the women part and the part for good fortuneji3 thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  even deleted the former part in the following. What’s more, a large number of characters containing the negative clip image006 thumb1 Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese charactersmeanings were created by using the character for women. Just like envydu thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters ?treacherousnessjian thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters ?greedylan thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters ?slavenu thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters … to name just a few. The Chinese character for concubineqie thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters is a combination of the womennv thumb2 Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  and the symbol for instruments for torture for convictsxin thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  Once at a time, people would use this word to talk about women who were concubines, bought or robbed, or those who were convicts and deprived of the chancing of serving in the royal palace. The character for compromisetuo thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters  shows a hand grabbing a woman, which bears the meaning of control and submission. On the other hand, it is the character for men made the left part for the word for rulesgui thumb Understanding the changing social status of Chinese women from the Chinese characters As language is the best carrier and representation for culture. From the linguistic phenomena we could know something about the society. If you are interested in Chinese, please do not hesitate to get involved in the Chinese language.

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