Women on the Threshold in the First Chapter of Liu Xiang’s Lienü Zhuan
The Gendered Concepts of Nei 内/Wai 外 and the Way of Women (Fu Dao 婦道)
Enquiring into the first chapter of Liu Xiang’s Lienü Zhuan 列女傳, this paper points out the consolidation of the spatial distinction of nei/wai and the ethical construction of womanhood in the Former Han period. In this analysis we will underline the “in-between” position of women depicted by the author and consider their position as based on a metaphorical—but sometimes even physical—threshold. It highlights six categories in Liu Xiang’s work that help us understand a traditional vision of woman that is reviving in modern times. Even today, the Way of Women (fu dao 妇道) is one of the principles on which social harmony is based; breaching the Way of Woman leads to disruptive consequences both within the family and outside, within society.
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