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Title:Concubines in Chinese society from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries
Author(s):Sheieh, Bau Hwa
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Ebrey, Patricia Buckley
Department / Program:History, Asia, Australia and Oceania
Women's Studies
Discipline:History, Asia, Australia and Oceania
Women's Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Asia, Australia and Oceania
Women's Studies
Abstract:The goal of this dissertation is to provide a comprehensive study of traditional Chinese concubinage during and immediately after the Ming dynasty. The source materials used include both official and unofficial histories, biographies, and documents, legal case tales, fictional sources, modern historical works, and fictional materials. Four aspects of concubinage are analyzed: modes of entry, social status and position, honorary systems, and social mobility issues.
This work presents the market aspects of concubinage in detail, including the sources of the market in women, and the transaction procedures for sale of women. It also outlines the marital classifications possible for concubines. After examining concubines' status within the framework of ritual and law, it also examines the customary practices which determined a concubine's domestic and public standing. Although concubines' ritual and legal status did influence their station in practice, they also possessed informal powers which could be used to overcome oppressive restrictions. Some concubines in their lives showed that traditional Chinese women were not completely oppressed by the patriarchal system. Concubines could also gain standing in the public and private honorary systems of the Ming period. Finally, this thesis, by providing evidence of significant vertical and lateral social mobility, shows how concubinage provided potential benefits as well as risks for concubines. In the institution of concubinage, some women appeared as active agents, whereas others appeared as passive participants, yet both kinds could become beneficiaries or victims. Paradoxically, concubinage offered both dynamic and security elements, but for those with high expectations the risks were greater.
Issue Date:1992
Rights Information:Copyright 1992 Sheieh, Bau Hwa
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9305692
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9305692

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