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Letters By Women Of The Ming-Qing Period Ð'ÐŽV Yu Yin Cheng

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During the Ming-Qing period, the lives of women were more colorful, especially for women in the elite families. Although the household management and duties still dominated most womenÐ'ÐŽÐ'¦s lives, Ming-Qing women in elite families could hared other concerns, including study, writing and the development of intellectual interests. They visited and wrote letter to each other and also they organized some literary clubs of their own. Their social circle was expanded.

Ming-Qing women wrote different types of letters, such as family letters and social letters. For the family letters, the women would write to their husbands, daughter-in-law and so on. The language was more elegant and less colloquial, compared to men. Also the theme of their letters focused on their interest in intellectual pursuit, literary and artistic interest in individual creativity. They viewed their family member as dual roles, one as a family member and the other as an intellectual companion.

For the social letters, the style was more intimacy and formal. The language style would depend on the relationship of the writer and the addressee. The letters exchanged between two female friends were written in a style with intimate feeling and straightforward languages. However, the letter to the members of a female literary club was in a formal and polite style. The social letters could help the women to identify their own zhinji and expand the social and spiritual space. They could support each other in their efforts to improve literary and artistic skills and religious pursuit and offer other spiritual comfort.

Why did women at that time have such colorful lives? It is due to the social changes. During Ming-Qing period, the printing industry was well-developed. The literature and poetry were spread all over the country. The women could assess the literary very easily. Also, the elite families were proud of the achievement of their women. The well-educated women could have good marriage and they were respected by others. If a female was good at poetry or literature, the people would call her as cai nu (Ð'¤~Ð'¤k). If the women had any achievement in the literature, their families would publish the writing and show off. The women with good writing skills or good education seemed have higher status. For this reading, Zhou Geng was knowledgeable at Chinese literature and history. She was praised by renowned scholar-official and artist, Zhou Lianggong. We can see that the women with good skills in writing were more respectful at that time.

Apart from Ming-Qing, I believe that in early dynasty, Song, the women in elite class would also perform this kind of activities. They formed literary clubs and wrote letters to their husbands and friends. Li Qing Zhao (Ð'§Ð"µÐ'ІMÐ'*Ð""), for example, she was famous poetry in Song Dynasty. She was very well-educated and she wrote a lot of letters to her husband, especially when he left home. It seemed like the women in elite families enjoyed colorful lives even in earlier dynasty.

Most communication tool at that time was letters. The women in elite class still could not go to anywhere they like. They must accompany with the family members or other people. This was due to the Confucianism. Women could not talk with others and communicate with people that outside the family directly. The letters became good tool to express your feeling. In the letter, the women focused on the own interest rather than household works. As the letter was a kind of tool to help the women to escape from the household works, they could say whatever they want to their zhiji and husbands. Also it became



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