The Life of Women in the Six Dynasties
Jen-Der Lee(Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica)
This article shows the agreement and discrepancy between classical teaching and social practice with regard to women’s life in the Six Dynasties. It first examines the precepts of female propriety prescribed in the Classics and promulgated by contemporary scholars, then depicts a more realistic picture of a woman’s social, educational, economic and family life. It portrays the average life of women in the Six Dynasties, applying not only the standard histories, but also archaeological materials, epitaphs, and contemporary literature. Several points are made here. First, marriage was the norm for a woman’s career. She prepared food and clothing for her husband’s family, and took the responsibility of bearing and raising children. Second, however, a married woman could still enjoy certain social freedom. Gender segregation was not successfully enforced: conjugal life in this period demonstrated affection and liveliness, and a northern wife’s function was not confined within the household. Third, re-marriage for widows was accepted, although most elderly widows devoted their attention more to Buddhist faith than to worldly relations. The picture thus suggests that without failing the responsibilities as wives and mothers, women in this period played a larger role in family, enjoyed social and ideological alternatives, and displayed vigor in their lives.
women、Six Dynasties、history of life、epitaphs