Ban Zhao Life and Philosophical Outlook Discussion Paper

Asian Studies

Ban Zhao Depiction of Confucian attitudes toward women Essay Prompt In writing your discussion response: Indicate which topic you are answering. List the relevant texts you read, and show that you read them thoughtfully by citing or quoting from them (and cite them correctly). Use the questions in your chosen topic to organize your response. […]

Ban Zhao’s Life and Philosophical Outlook

Ban Zhao is considered the first woman historian in the Republic of China, and she lived in the Han Dynasty around the year 80 CE. In this era, the Chinese were undergoing a golden age in sciences, music, sport, history, and industry; there was a concerted effort by the ruler at the time, Emporer Wu, to promote the country’s official ideology, namely Confucianism (Rossabi 86). Ban Zhao came from a prominent family, with his father being a magistrate in Wangdu County. She married at 14, but when still young, her husband passed away; she never remarried and devoted her remaining life to studying literature and educating her children.

Ban Zhao was educated, and her life was spent pursuing knowledge. Her father was the first to undertake historical work affiliated with Chinese history, and at his death, the eldest son Ban Gu was commissioned to continue the task. Some years later, his brother was accused of altering the historical texts and was sent to prison. Then, Emperor He ordered Ban Zhao to complete the project; she was responsible for checking, editing, and writing the final chapters of Han Shu. Additionally, she authored many inscriptions, essays, poems, argumentations, instructions, and poems; her scholarly publications and dedication enabled her to receive a post in the Han imperial court, teaching the royal family. Besides History, she is well known for her work as the admonition for women (Nujie) (Ebrey 54).

Confucian Attitudes towards Women as Expressed by Ban Zhao

Confucianism in defining women’s role in society is expressed in Ban Zhao’s work, Nujie; it takes the ideological standpoint that women should be respectful to men, submissive to their husbands, and remain faithful to their spouses and other concubines in the household (Rossabi 88). She believed that women should practice good manners and obey their male counterparts. Therefore, Ban Zhao’s outlook on how gender played a part at the time shows that she favored a traditional and patriarchal approach to marriage life.

Ban Zhao’s Viewpoint on Upper-class women

In the reading Nujieshe writes that women ought to be well educated in order to assist their husbands and families; arguably, this statement can be seen reflected in her life, whereby she used her talents and education to make a change in the Chinese academic world (Rossabi 88). Therefore, I guess that even if Ban Zhao advocated the progress of upper-class women to explore education and career opportunities, they should do so in the context of a traditional family setup.

Ban Zhao’s Ideological Beliefs Explained

There should be two factors under consideration in criticizing Ban Zhao’s work, especially regarding women as subject to men. Firstly, the followers of the ideologies incorporated many other teachings borrowed from different philosophies and schools, including Chinese traditions; some theories associated with Confucian philosophies already existed in society as a norm (Theodore and Irene 317). Secondly, the belief was deeply ingrained in the political atmosphere at the time because it favored and supported the ruler’s divine right (Theodore and Irene 317).

With these two viewpoints in mind, her work should be scrutinized by examining the social, cultural, and political atmosphere driving the society at the time. In light of this, one philosopher pointed out to the founders of Han that even though they won the battle from horseback, they would not retain it in the same. It was, therefore, in the interests of the Emperor to favor ideologies that would solidify his hold on power. Considering her brother had just been thrown in prison by the reigning emperor due to expressing a different point of view, it would augur well for Ban Zhao to support a stand that won’t bring unnecessary conflict.

Ban Zhao’s work has significantly influenced most Historians studying the past Chinese way of life. Her work has gained considerable traction over the years, and the teaching towards Confusious principles, especially women’s place in society. Her scholarly work was inspired by the era she lived in, the political environment at the time, and the cultural outlook of the people in that era. Therefore, Ban Zhao’s writings should be approached with the understanding that they provided a time frame that corresponded with the Chinese philosophical viewpoint at the time. This factor should take center stage in criticism of her work.

Works Cited

Ebrey, Patricia. Chinese Civilization and Society: a Sourcebook. Free Press, 1981.

Rossabi, Morris. A History of China. John Wiley and Sons, 2014.

Theodore, De Bary, and Bloom, Irene. Sources of Chinese Tradition. From Earliest Times to 1600. Columbia University Press, 1999.

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Published On: 01-01-1970

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