Women, Property, and Confucian Reaction in Sung and Yeuan China (960-1368)

Women, Property, and Confucian Reaction in Sung and Yeuan China (960-1368)

Women, Property, and Confucian Reaction in Sung and Yeuan China (960-1368)

Women, Property, and Confucian Reaction in Sung and Yeuan China (960-1368)

Synopsis

This book argues that the Mongol invasion of China in the thirteenth century precipitated a lasting transformation of marriage and property laws that deprived women of their property rights and reduced their legal and economic autonomy. It describes how indigenous social change combined with foreign invasion and cultural confrontation to bring laws more into line with the goals of the radical Confucian philosophers, who wished to curtail women's financial and personal autonomy. This book provides a reevaluation of the Mongol invasion and its influence on Chinese law and society, and presents a new look at the changing position of women in premodern China.

Excerpt

This book describes a transformation of gender and property relations that occurred in China between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, a period of rapid social and economic change and expanding foreign occupation. During much of this time, women's property rights were steadily improving, and laws and practices affecting marriage and property were moving away from Confucian ideals of patrilineality. Then the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century and the subsequent confrontation between nomadic and sedentary culture precipitated a re-Confucianization of the law and a swing back toward patrilineal principles that deprived women of their property rights and reduced their legal and economic autonomy.

By using gender and property as its focus, this book provides a reevaluation of the Mongol invasion and its influence on Chinese law and society. It also presents a new look at the changing position of women in premodern China and explores the changing meaning of gender with all its contradictions as it was continually reinvented and reinforced. The transmission and control of property was an area of tension between government laws, Confucian ideology, social practice, and ethnic norms. It was a site at which gender constructions, moral standards, and ethnic identity were both defined and challenged, such that new sets of meanings emerged over time. Such themes are the subject of this book.

The Mongol conquest of China, completed in 1276, marked the culmination of a process of foreign encroachment begun by the Khitan Liao in the tenth century and continued by the Jurchen Chin in the eleventh and twelfth. The widespread destruction of life and property in North China, especially during the prolonged Mongol attacks, has been well documented, but it is generally accepted that the conquest of China by its nomadic steppe neighbors did not appreciably affect basic Chinese social institutions such as marriage and inheritance. This book argues that on the contrary the Mongol invasion was instrumental in . . .

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