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Feminine Image

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Feminine Images

I believe being a woman in ancient Chinese period is not easy. Sexual discrimination emerged since the beginning of Chinese culture. Images of women in my points of views were always portrayed as beauty and sexual objects for men. No matter whom she is, no matter what role she is playing in Chinese society, she will never has more power than men. Artworks are one of the good evidences that prove my points of views. I always believe artworks represent not only a thought of artists, but also show a trend of society during a time that the works were produced.

After I have a chance to see many female images from several Chinese Art books. From my investigation, there is none of a female image until the Western Han period in the tomb of Lady Xin. Still, instead of depicting on how important of Lady Xin was, the image represented the life after dead belief of Chinese people. There were a lot of images that demonstrated males’ roles, but not females. It would be very easy for me to explain how important of males in Chinese culture than females.

Most of Early Chinese artworks represent the power of males and the belief of superstitions. Is it because Chinese does not think females are importance? Is it because only males have more power over everything? It seems to me that females in early Chinese culture

have a lower status than males. In my observation, I never see female scholar images in Chinese art. It seems to me that women were excluded from Chinese societies during the very early period.

My conclusion after seeing through female images in Shang, Zhou, Qin, and Han dynasty, there are perhaps about three distinct types of females in early Chinese culture. First are females from a royal family. Second are servants for a royal family, and third I guess it could be a regular domestic life of female at the village level.

I believe a patron of this image is either an emperor or empress. The purpose of this image is to show a status of the Lady Xin and the belief of life after dead.

Because of the arrival of Confucianism, Chinese culture and value during the Six dynasties had shifted dramatically. Instead of concentrating on the afterlife value system, Confucianism concerns on a morality of human beings and on different roles of males and females. The new belief system has a big impact on artworks and a life of females in China. Unlike the earlier dynasties, females played more part in the Six dynasties society. There are a lot of evidences shown on artworks such as the virtuous lady and filial daughter, and the powerful empress or aristocrat from Michael Sullivan’s book, The Arts of China.1

The virtuous lady in my opinion portrays a life of female at the higher status or royal level. This artwork from the Six dynasties (Northern Wei dynasty) considers one of the early paintings that depicts on women life and status in Chinese culture. Because of the huge influence from Confucianism, women were expected to behave themselves and sometime needed to correct a wrong behavior of others, especially people in her own family. The virtuous lady or filial daughter demonstrates a good role of woman who tries not only to conduct herself well, but help conducting other behavior as well.

I believe a patron of this image is either an emperor or empress. The purpose of this image is to show a virtue of female to viewers. Perhaps the other purpose of this image is to spread the Confucianism value and belief to the viewers.

To be honest I was pretty surprise while I was listening to the lecture about the story of this image. I never expected to hear that there was a female who dare to correct an emperor’s behavior. I was even more surprise when I heard that she rejected the emperor as well. Confucianism is not only teaching everyone in societies to behave themselves well, but also placing Chinese women in a better status.

Still, women have less opportunity to do things like men do. Up until the Six dynasties (Northern Wei dynasty), I never see any images of a female scholar. Females can be anything such as a good person, a beautiful woman, and a mother, but they cannot be a smart person. They cannot occupy a better status in society and they cannot have power. Females were still only a beauty object for males. No matter what status Chinese women belonging to, they still have less power compared to men. There is no doubt that the function of the image is to teach women to behave properly. As I had mention above, the image concentrates on Confucian’s value system.

Like the virtuous lady or filial daughter, the powerful empress or aristocrat portrays a life of female at the higher status or royal level during Six dynasties (Northern Wei dynasty). This stone relief image depicts the empress and court ladies scene. The empress seems to give some donation to a woman who is on the far left. Like the virtuous lady or filial daughter, the powerful empress or aristocrat demonstrates a trend of Confucian value system. The image shows a high virtue of the empress.

In my opinion the artist was probably use the idea that even the empress who is in the royal family has a high virtue. Regular females in every social class should behave the same way. The function of the image is to teach women to behave properly. I really love the fact that females start playing a good role in society.

Yet, I still have a lot of questions on my mind. One of it was what else women can do. There are a lot of images of females at the royal or high status level. Where is an image of female from a lower status? Some time I can’t help but think that only females who are in a high status play a part in society. Still, most of female in early Chinese society were excluded from society.

Another question is why there were a lot of concubine ladies in this image? Is it because women could only be a beauty and sexual object for men? Perhaps having a lot of concubines indicate a social status of a man in Chinese culture. The more concubines a man has, the higher rank he belongs to. If it is so, I do not think it is a good idea. It seems to me even though Chinese culture was gradually changed, a woman status in Chinese culture is still the same. There may be some changed, but it is a very small change.

Female still have a lower status than male no matter what. Woman can only be a beauty and sexual object for man. Is it fair for them? I can not imagine what will happen if one day there is a woman in early Chinese culture wanted to be an artist or a scholar. She would probably need to quit dreaming and face a real world that she cannot be such thing. It is not because she does not have an ability to develop skills, but because she is not a man. She is only a woman who always



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