Confucian Humanism and the Importance of Female Education
The Controversial Role of 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.
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