Confucian Humanism and the Importance of Female Education

The Controversial Role of Ban Zhao

  • Jana S. Rošker University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Slovenia
Keywords: Chinese gender studies, women in Chinese history, Confucian humanism, female philosophy, Ban Zhao


The problem of the relation between the female gender and Confucian humanism is far more complex than it seems to be on the first glance. Especially if we consider the many misogynistic phenomena we can encounter in the course of Chinese history, such as foot-binding or the concubinage, we might be inclined to think that female philosophy was impossible in traditional China. This paper aims to challenge the standard views on this problem. It aims to shed some light on the fact that in this context we have to differentiate between classical teachings that were relatively egalitarian in nature, and later ideologies that more or less openly promoted the inferior position of women in society. The paper will analyse the work of the female Han dynasty scholar Ban Zhao (45–117 CE), who was the first well-known female thinker in the history of Chinese philosophy. Through this analysis, the author also aims to expose the contradiction between dominant conventions on the one hand, and latent, often hidden criticism of gender relations in female writings of traditional China on the other. In this way, the paper aims to promote a more culturally sensitive approach to the historical and conceptual study of gender discourses in China by connecting textual analyses with actual and comprehensive knowledge of the historical and social contexts in which they were placed.


Download data is not yet available.


Altanian, Melanie. 2018. “Die Klassiker sind nunmal alle von Männern geschrieben.” Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen 1–7, November 16, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018.

Anderl, Sibylle. 2013. “Der Aufschrei der Philosophinnen.” Frankfuter Allgemeine, Planckton 1–16, March 22, 2013. Accesed November 19, 2018.

Ardizzoni, Sabrina. 2020. “Women on the Threshold in the First Chapter of Liu Xiang’s Lienü Zhuan.” Asian Studies 8 (3): 281–302.

Ban Zhao 班昭. s.d. “Nü jie 女誡 (Lessons for Women).” Meiri toutiao, November 11, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2020.

Cleary, Thomas. 1989. Immortal Sisters: Secrets of Taoist Women. Boston: Shambhala.

Haslanger, Sally. 2005. Theorizing Feminisms: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jia, Cuixiang 贺翠香. 2004. “Nü ren yu zhexue 女人与哲学 (Women and Philosophy).” Ai sixiang 1–7. Accessed November 18, 2018.

Kim, Sungmoon. 2014. “The Way to Become a Female Sage: Yunjidang’s Confucian Feminism.” Journal of the History of Ideas 75 (3): 395–416.

Kinney, Anne Behnke. 2017. “Women in the Analects.” In A Concise Companion to Confucius, edited by Paul Goldin, 148–63. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Li, Suping 李素萍. 2004. Cong de dao cheng xian kan daojiao zhong nüxing zhi diwei – cong nüzi yixiu shizheng shuoqi 從得道成仙看道教中女性之地位 (The Position of Women in Popular Daoism through the Lens of the Achievement of the Way and the Enlightenment—Assisting Female Practitioners). Beijing: Yinshua xueyuan chuban she.

Lunyu 論語 (The Analects). In: Chinese text project, Pre-Qin and Han. Accessed October 10, 2019.

Pang-White, Ann A. 2009. “Chinese Philosophy and Woman: Is Reconciliation Possible?” American Philosophical Association Newsletter 9 (1): 1–2.

Rosenlee, Li-Hsiang Lisa. 2006. Confucianism and Women: A Philosophical Interpretation. New York: SUNY.

Vampelj Suhadolnik, Nataša. 2019. “Transmission of Han Pictorial Motifs into the Western Periphery: Fuxi and Nüwa in the Wei-Jin Mural Tombs in the Hexi Corridor.” Asian Studies 7 (2): 47–8.

Zhao, Jinchao. 2019. “Integration and Transformation: A Study of the Sun and the Moon Depicted in the Imagery of Fuxi and Nüwa.” Asian Studies 7 (2): 13–45.

Zhou, Guoping 周国平. 2003. Shouwangde juli 守望的距离 (Distant Observation). Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chuban she.

How to Cite
RoškerJ. S. (2021). Confucian Humanism and the Importance of Female Education. Asian Studies, 9(1), 13-29.
Historical Aspects of Gender Studies