Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Gender and Women’s War Participation in Early Imperial China
early imperial China,war,women’s history,gender border-crossing,historical writing,
|Publication Year :||2018|
Men and dominant masculinities generally engaged in war in traditional China. Women should not interfere in military affairs, nor should they have roles in warfare; however, one can find women’s participation in war in historical writings. This study focuses on the patterns, background, and development of women’s war participation in early imperial China, specifically from the 4th to 8th centuries. The author clarifies notions of gender over time in early imperial China’s military culture and the evolution of historical texts written by scholar-officials.
This research shows four major patterns of women’s participation, including engagement in combat and leadership, guard duty and logistical support, contributing one’s property for the war effort, and providing advice. Examples of those engaged in combat or leadership are few, but undoubtedly the most eye-catching. Those roles were not only due to the absence of male family members, but also reflected women’s power and agency. In contrast, providing logistical support, property, or advice were more common occurrences. The contextual background for such patterns includes the ruler’s request for manpower, local self-defense installations, and non-Han social organizations. Additionally, one cannot ignore the hierarchies, ethical roles of women in paternal families, and customs of regional societies.
Men attempted to rid military culture of “femininity” and criticized women who interfered in military affairs even regarding them as the causes of disasters. From the perspective of yin and yang, women would erode the masculinity of an army, and therefore, military leaders would have to take the matter seriously. Ambiguities could be found in discourse employed by scholar-officials and military leaders. Concerning men, for example, a leader who didn’t give into the temptation of women could bolster his reputation; however, one who had women soldiers under his command would be considered talented. For some women, (especially those insurrectionists viewed as crossing prescribed gender norms) they were usually described with different temperaments and body characteristics compared to their contemporaries.
In historical writings, women participating in war had not been recorded during the Qin and Han dynasties. Nevertheless, this situation would change in early Medieval China. Owing to the compilation of women’s biographies and advocacy of loyalty by the courts, women as individuals became roles models and their stories were recorded into the official histories. Women with military exploits could be rewarded with honorary title, and, the in some cases her honor could extend to her descendants. During the Tang dynasty, scholar-officials shaped the images of those historical women into a model which represented the women who participated in war at that time.
By analyzing women’s power within the patriarchal family, hierarchies, social structures, and regional customs, this study examines how women in early imperial China involved themselves in war. The author elucidates the propagation of these images of women, the ambiguous attitudes held by men, and the complexity of the woman as both an individual and a concept.
Keywords: early imperial China, war, women’s history, gender border-crossing, historical writing
|Appears in Collections:||歷史學系|
Files in This Item:
|4.35 MB||Adobe PDF|
Items in DSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.