Disgraceful Matters: The Politics of Chastity in by Janet M. Theiss

By Janet M. Theiss

Taking a look past the commonly used trappings of the cult of girl chastity-such as hagiographies of widows and chastity shrines--in past due imperial China, this publication explores the cult's political importance and sensible ramifications in daily life in the course of the eighteenth century. within the first full-length examine of the topic, Janet Theiss examines an enormous variety of legislation, criminal situations, laws, and regulations to demonstrate the social and political techniques by which woman advantage used to be outlined, enforced, and contested. alongside the way in which, she offers wealthy information of social existence and cultural practices between traditional chinese language humans via narratives of felony circumstances of sexual attack, harassment, adultery, and family violence.

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20 In contrast with Puan District’s eight women recognized for chastity by 1758, Shanhua’s gazetteer of 1747 boasted 102 chaste women, including one from the Song dynasty and nine from the Ming. 21 Here too, though chastity had long been revered, the chastity cult as a ritual and institutional phenomenon was created by the central state, albeit without the association with military conquest by a culturally alien regime. Wuxi County, Jiangsu, in the heartland of the Ming chastity cult, offers yet another pattern.

This must have to do with someone using the illicit sex incident as an excuse to force him to commit suicide. Another village elder claimed he had intended to report the case but events had developed too quickly. He denied that anyone had pressured Ahai into killing himself. Finally, he said simply, “We ignorant Miao people have no knowledge [of these things]. I can only beg for your mercy” (Xiaode men yu miao wuzhi. Zhi qiu kai en). 7 In Han society, such suicides were widely valorized as acts of heroism that incontrovertibly vindicated a woman’s assertion of chastity.

He denied that anyone had pressured Ahai into killing himself. Finally, he said simply, “We ignorant Miao people have no knowledge [of these things]. I can only beg for your mercy” (Xiaode men yu miao wuzhi. Zhi qiu kai en). 7 In Han society, such suicides were widely valorized as acts of heroism that incontrovertibly vindicated a woman’s assertion of chastity. With thousands of women across the empire being honored each year by the state or their local communities as chastity martyrs or chaste widows, the sexual virtue of women was a critical element of individual and family reputation.

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