TYPICAL WOMEN OF CHINA
[Abridged from the Chinese Work
"RECORDS OF VIRTUOUS WOMEN
OF ANCIENT AND MODERN TIMES."]
By Miss A. C.jjSAFFORD.
KELLY AND WALSH. LIMITED,
SHANGHAI HONGKONG YOKOHAMA SINGAPORE.
f~ NEW "
,JC LIBS,, -Y
TOR LENOX AND
who devoted much time and labour in translating this volume
was called to lay down life's burdens and enter into rest before
its publication had been comi^e^ded^ .^Fhe three friends to whom this
task was committed have found it truly a labour of love, while they
regret its publication has been unavoidably delayed for so long.
They now join in the hope that the earnest desire of Miss SAFFORU in
undertaking this work may be abundantly realised She
hoped the book might serve to interest the women of Christian lands
in the condition of their sisters in China, by drawing aside the veil which
during the ages has hidden so many millions of lives from the rest of the
world, and revealing what are the motives by which Chinese women
are still actuated as well as the models which they profess and attempt
It is not difficult to see that there is much in their lives that is noble
and beautiful, entitling them to claim kinship with the great and famous
women of our home lands; and that they, too, are moved by love
and sympathy-true womanhood's inheritance. The Christian reader,
however, cannot fail to mourn over the darkness and superstition which
characterize some of even their noblest examples, and to earnestly desire
that the mothers and daughters of China may soon be brought under
beni<m influences of that holy religion which alone can give real comfort
and peace in this life, and a bright hope for that which is to come.
SHANGHAI, July, 1891.
origin of the Chinese work dates back to nearly two thousand
years, to Liu Hiang, a distinguished author of the Han dynasty.
As written by him, it contained only a few chapters, but it was a
" recognized model of style." It was enlarged by an author of the Ming
dynasty, and now contains three hundred and thirteen chapters, in four
volumes, treating respectively of Woman's Virtues, Words, Deportment,
and Employments. The original matter is interwoven with numerous
extracts from Chinese Authors of more or less eminence, Confucius and
Mencius heading the list. Many pages are but prolix, unedifying
repetition of the merest platitudes, so that the translator has found it
necessary to leave out whole paragraphs, and even chapters, rather than
conduct the reader through such tedious wastes of dullness. Yet it is
hoped that in this abridgment nothing has been omitted essential to
exhibit the Chinese ideas of what a woman's character and training should
be, or to furnish a true picture of the typical Chinese Woman's life.
This book, we are told, is read by all cultured native women, and the
highest aspiration of many of them is to obtain a fame like that of its
heroines. Its influence has extended through centuries, an apt illustration
of the tendency of the national mind to " go on in its old ruts by sheer
vis inertia:" . .
Whilst the anecdotes and reflections must often seem very insipid t.
our Western tastes, they take us into the homes of women of all ranks,
and reveal much there that is curious and interesting. The translation
doubtless has many defects. It makes no pretensions to being the work
of a critical scholar. It is an honest effort to convey the real meaning
of the original, " translating rather in accordance with the sense than
precisely in harmony with the letter," and often paraphrasing the
sentences and taking some license in expanding the sententious brevity
of the Wen-li, in order to bring out the meaning more fully.
CHINESE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
/T2TRLS should learn about Woman's Virtues, Woman's Words,
^^ Woman's Deportment, and Woman's Employments.
Confucius said : " Woman is subject to man ; she cannot herself
direct any affairs, but must follow the Rule of the three Obediences.
At home [before marriage] she must obey her father ; when married, she
must obey her husband ; after her husband's death she must obey her son.
She may not presume to follow her own judgment.
There are seven causes for which a wife may be divorced, viz.,
nndutifulness towards her husband's parents; having no son; immorality;
jealousy ; having a leprous disease ; talkativeness ; stealing.
In ancient times, according to the Book of Rites, a woman for three
months previous to her marriage was instructed how to perform the
duties of a wife, either in the ancestral temple [or chamber] of her family,
or in that of the Imperial Clan. Then sacrifices were offered, and she
was taught to prepare the animals, fish, vegetables and water-plants, used
on such occasions.
Chinese Author's Preface.
The man -oes to meet his bride, he takes precedence of the woman ;
he is stron- and she is weak. Heaven takes precedence of earth; the
king takes precedence of his minister: the husband is superior to
The rules of propriety make this distinction between the sexes, an
when husband and wife maintain it there is affection between father and
son This affection existing between father and son, righteousness
generated; righteousness causes the observance of the rites
decorum," in everyday life and in worship; the rites being observe
peace prevails everywhere. Without this distinction there would
rio-hteousness, and its absence makes men act like brutes.
The lady Ts'ao says, in her Precepts for Women, that in the early
times a daughter, three days after birth, was laid under the bed given
a tile to play with, and sacrifices were offered to the ancestors. Laying
her beneath the bed tvpified her future helplessness and subjection ; the
tile was the type of a laborious life, to be spent in serving her husbanc
and the sacrifices signified that it would be her duty to perpetuate
husband's ancestral line. These things are the chief end of a wife s
The Ritual of Decorum contains the following rules
Be modest and respectful in demeanor. Prefer others to yourself. If you
have done good, do not proclaim it; if evil, do not excuse it.
bear insult and obloquy. Continually fear lest you do something wrong.
Go to rest lute and arise early, dreading not the earliest dawn, before
Chinese Author's Preface. ix
darkness flees. Be industrious, never refuse one task because it is
difficult, nor slight another because it is easy. Cultivate thoroughness in
all you do, and order everything methodically.
Be sedate and modest, exercise self-control, and serve your husband,
preparing his wine and food properly, also the ancestral sacrifices in their
season. If you thus minutely perform your duties, you need not fear that
you will bo unknown and unpraised ; that you disgrace your name is
The union of husband and wife resembles the relation of the superior
and inferior principles, which permeates all things and influences the
earthly and heavenly intelligences. The virtue of the superior principle
is inflexible firmness ; that of the inferior principle is pliable weakness.
So man's strength is his honor, woman's weakness is her excellence. The
proverb says, " Man is born with a strong nature like the wolf, watch
lest it grow weak ; woman is born with a weak nature like the rat, watch
lest it grow strong." If a woman would live properly, nothing is better or
her to cultivate than reverence : if she would escape rough treatment, let
her cultivate docility. Reverential obedience is the great duty of a wife.
The husband should lead and the wife follow him, this is the correct
The lady Ch'ang, in her Rules for Women, a^serN that a husband may
by a great number of good deeds accumulate merit to atone for his errors.
but a wife can attain completeness only through practice of the four studies
assigned to women.
x Chinese Author's Preface.
In the Classic of Odes these lines are found :-
" Under the window of the ancestral hall,
She sets forth the offering of water-plants "
signifying that harmonious family life all women should lead, according
to the rules of decorum, pursuing domestic duties in the inner apartments.
Though a woman had elegant deportment, fascinating manners,
eminent gifts, was eloquent in speech and perfect in beauty, yet lacked
virtue, and wielded power beyond her sphere, she might subvert a city,
and her words might overthrow a kingdom. She would be like a fragrant
flower that yet conceals a sting, like an earthen tile gilt to resemble a daz-
zling gem. ' If she had control in an empire, she would imperil its safety,
or in a family, she would bring it to ruin.
In the Classic of Changes we are told that a family is happy when the
women are virtuous. The proper place for women is in the inner apart-
ments ; the proper place for man is in the outside world. If the sexes
occupy their proper places, the grand law of heaven and earth is fulfilled.
If the father be properly treated as a father, the son as a son, the elder
brother as an slder brother, the husband as a husband, the wife as a wife,
then the family is correctly regulated, and when this is done the universe
We have now discussed fully the great principles which are so
necessary for girls to learn, and which are illustrated in this work by the
admirable sayings and good deeds of women of ancient times.
TYPICAL WOMEN OF CHINA.
PAR T I.
lYfl OMAN'S virtues, says the lady Ts'ao, are not of a conspicuous
or brilliant order. They are purity, refusal of a second
marriage if her betrothed or her husband should die, the right govern-
ment of her household, the practice of modesty and humility, and the
regulation of life by the rules of propriety.
The Decorum Ritual teaches that " Service rendered to a husband
has five aspects. In the early morning the wife must bind up her hair
with broad cross-pins, as if preparing for an audience at court, and show
to her husband the reverence of a subject to his monarch. After washing
her hands, she must prepare food and offer it to her husband with the
2 Typical Women of China.
respect a son observes towards his father. If her lord act perversely she
must behave to him as a younger to an elder brother, and if he errs, she
must assist him to retrieve his error, with the love of friend for friend
Only in the most retired hours should the affection of wife for busbar
A wife should look up to her husband as to Heaven through her
whole life. A loving union resembles the harmony of lutes and
harps, and, harmony prevailing in the home, the family prospers,
husband and wife are not in harmony, the five relations are marred the
couple are like opposing lances, and there is no end to their troubles.
Surely the wife should be respectful, obedient, and compliant towards li
husband, and thus discharge her duty to the utmost, and she must share
in his joys and in his sorrows all their days. Thus Mencius has written :
On a woman's marriage-day her mother goes with her to the door anc
cautions her, saying, ' You are going to your new home : be reverential,
be dutiful, be obedient to your husband.' This is the
rule for wives.
The husband [should his wife die] may marry a second time, says
the lady TVao ; but for the wile, there may be no second marriage
Woman's Virtues. 3
ceremonial. To gratify the wishes of the One Man [i.e., the husband]
is the fulfilment of the wife's destiny; to lose his favor is to ruin that
destiny. How can a wife not strive to win her husband's affection ?
The true doctrine of husband and wife requires the latter to live
in perpetual seclusion. If she goes abroad often, scandal is excited;
scandal being excited, gos.sip prevails ; when gossip prevails, she becomes
reckless, and, being reckless, she ridicules her husband. Now then, things
have a crooked and a straight side, words have a right and a wronf
meaning; the person who is right cannot but shew resentment, and the
one who is wrong will surely recriminate. From resentment and recri-
mination outrageous conduct ari>es, for if the saucy wife does not restrain
herself, the husband pursues her with reprimands, and mutual rage leads
to blows. Husband and wife should live under the rule of self-respect,
and in loving unison. But having struck each other, how can self-respect
continue: having exchanged reproaches, how can loving unison endure ?
These being destroyed, the twain are separated in heart, in consequence
of the wife not knowing how to reverence and obey.
CHAPTER l\ r .
The Classic of Changes describes the marriage relation to be as
unchangeable as the law which governs it :
" Gently blows the east wind, and clouds
And rain come.
Typical Women of China.
Husband and wife should strive to be in accord,
And not let angrv passions rise.
When we gather the mustard we do not throw it away becau:
of its roots.
If I do not sully my good character^
I ought to live with you until death."
Ngo Kwang and Nii Ying were the wives of Shun, and the daughters
of the Emperor Yao.
Shun in his early years lived in obscurity, in a very lonely place.
The president of the princes recommended him to Yao as a suitable person
for his successor. In course of time Yao bestowed his two daughters on
Shun in marriage, and observed carefully his conduct in domestic life
as a test of his character and his capacity to govern.
Shun's wives dutifully served him, living amidst the -channelled
fields" of his farm at Mount Leih. They did not presume on being the
daughters of an Emperor, but were plain and decorous in style, perform-
ing all the duties required of a good wife.
When Shun was made Emperor, the world saw and praised their
wisdom and pure benevolence.
Shun died at TVang-wu, whilst making a progress through his
dominions, and his wives wept themselves to death at his g rave_near_the
* See LEGGE'S Translation of the Boolt of Odes, as also used in other odes succeeding.
*y s *T ^ '** .. V
t^S3^^ -^ &S-^W& ^f r
" ^J ^f>- . -^KJ!^ ^^' . -Wf/ I
The Kaiperor Shim's wives faithfully serve him.
Fnng-chao-i faces a bear to save the Emperor.
See page 8.
Woman! 8 Virtues. 5
River Siang. They are known in history as the Siang Ladies ; also, are
called the Superior Ones.
Wen Wang, of the Chow dynasty, was even from his infancy famous
for intelligence and goodness, and in his manhood he found a superior
woman, the lady Sze, worthy to be his wife. From the moment of her
arrival at his court all the courtiers perceived her disposition to be modest
and virtuous, and her praise is celebrated in an ode, " The Cry of the
Gulls." * The feudal princes of the South were under Wen Wang's
protection. They were able, upright, virtuous men, ruling well their
families, and their wives and daughters enjoyed the favor of Wen Wang's
wife ar.d exhibited the most retiring and unspotted virtue. Hence on the
marriage of one of these ladies she was welcomed in her husband's family,
O <ti *
and the ode of " The Magpie's Nest" was made in her honor:
" The magpie has a nest,
The dove resides therein :
This bride goes to her husband's home,
A hundred chariots wait to receive her.
The magpie has a net,
The dove occupies it :
This bride goes to her home,
A hnnd re \ chariots accompany her.
* Omitted as too lengthy.
Typical Women of China.
The magpie has a nest,
The dove fills it :
This bride goes to her home,
These hundreds of chariots complete her state."
[The seventh chapter is omitted, as it closely resemble? the one preceding.]
In the days of the Han dynasty, Pao Siien married a lady of the
Hwan family, Shao Kiiin by name.
Siien was once the pupil of her father, and the content which he
then showed in the midst of poverty had gained his master's admiration,
and when the daughter married him, the father presented her with many
pieces of silk and other valuable articles. Siien was displeased, and said
to his wife, u From your childhood yon have had all you wished for,
and you are accustomed to wear beautiful ornaments. I have lived in
poverty, and am not your equal." The wife made reply, " Because you
are virtuous and trustworthy my father has given me, your worthless
handmaid, to wait on you with towel and comb [i.e., to be your wife].
I await respectfully your orders; you have only to direct to be obeyed."
Siien smiled and said, " If you are able to do this indeed, I have a
wish." His wife understood his meaning, forthwith sent back her
father's servants with all the gifts they had brought, changed her elegant
long robes for short skirts suitable for work, and, mounting a cart, of
which Siien was the driver, went to his home. When they arrived, she
Woman's Virtues. 7
first bowed down before his mother, in compliance with the rules of
propriety, and' then took an earthen jar and brought water from the well.
The neighbors all commended her practice of a wife's duties.
Liang Hang's noble character was esteemed highly bv many
influential families who desired him for a son-in-law, but he would by
no means consent to marry. The Ming family resided in the same district
with himself, and had a daughter named Meng Kwang. She was stout
and coarse, exceedingly ugly, and of very dark complexion, and was so
strong as to be able to lift a rice-mortar.*
This Meng Kwang told her parents that she wished to marry Liang-
Hung, and added, "Unless the suitable person is chosen, I will not marry
anyone." Hearing this, Liang Hung made her his wife. As a bride in
their home she was decked with finery of every description, and for seven
days Hung would have nothing to say to her. At last she knelt before
him and begged to know how she had offended him.
He made answer: "I selected a poorly-dressed woman, to live with
me in retired fashion amongst the hills. But the woman who has come
to me wears garments of variegated silk, paints her face, and blackens her
eyebrows. How can I approve of her?" "I have dressed thus only
to test my husband's real wishes," explained the wife. Then she changed
her dress, threw aside her beautiful head-dress, donned plain cotton
clothes, and betook herself from that time to hard work, greatlv to the
delight of her husband, who said, " Truly this woman is Liang Hung's
* Such a mortar weighs from 100 to 180 pounds.
Typical Women of China.
wife." She earned the title of Tuh Yao, or Shining Virtue, as she
labored with her husband among the Pa Ling hill*, cultivating the ground
and weaving cloth. . . These anecdotes illustrate how a wife should serve
her husband. If she loves to dress handsomely and wear rich ornaments,
yet to please her husband gives up these things, her excellence is
The customs of the present age have deteriorated. The man of
day, when he takes a wife discusses the property to be gained ; the woman
on her side is bent on getting a fine trousseau from her mother, and
cannot be satisfied. With little modesty, and no sense of shame, she
clamors fur jewellery and valuables of every kind.
Again, the man often shews a low and sordid nature in that he is
very angry if his bride comes to him with only a few bridal gifts. Can
you read these records and not blush with shame for our degeneracy?
The monarch Yuan Ti was visiting a collection of tigers and other
fierce animals, when suddenly a bear broke loose, and, climbing up the
railing of the enclosed space, endeavored to reach the top. The ladies of
the court all fled and hid themselves, except one, Fung Chao I, who with a
determined countenance braced herself upright in front of the animal.
Some of the king's guards killed the bear, and then the king asked Chao I,
Why did you alone show no alarm?" She replied, " I feared lest the
Woman's Virtues. 9
bear might break through to your dais, and knowing that if he sei/ed one
person he would be satisfied, I placed my body as a screen for yours."
For this the king afterwards rendered double honor to Chao I.
In the days of the Southern Sung dynasty, a man of the prefecture of
Ch'u was taken captive by a band of robbers, who were about to kill and
eat him, when his wife with tears thus implored them : u Only my
husband remains of all his family. I beg you to spare his life and take me
in his stead." The band granted her prayer, and she became their victim,
whilst her husband was set free.
Che Cheng* had reigned eleven years when there occurred a oreat
o o O
famine in the Fang Shan district. Some starving soldiers seized one day
the peasant Li Chung I, intending to make a meal of him. His wife was
told this and hurried to the spot, where her tears watered the earth as she
thus plead with the soldiers : " The man you have captured is my husband.
Oh ! pity me, and do not kill him. We have hidden in the ground at home
a jar of sauce and a few pints of rice. Take these, and let him go."
The soldiers refused, and again the wife plead : " My husband is very
lean and will scarcely be a mouthful for you. I am fleshy, and of dark
complexion, and they say that the flesh of such persons is excellent eating.
I am willing to die and to be eaten, for his sake." She had her wish;
* Yuan dynasty.
10 Typical Women of China.
her husband was spared, and of all the people who heard of her sad fate
there was not one who did not grieve.
That human beings should ever have been eaten, and such sacrifices
as these wives made be called for, revolts humanity : with the ancient
times such things have passed away. Still, if a wife reverences her
husband as Heaven, and a time should come when it is necessary, from
his life being in danger, she must not hesitate to die for him. This is her
Won, en have petitioned the emperor to allow them to undergo the
penalty of the law in the place of their husbands, as the wife of Yang Ki
Shing, who offered herself to be beheaded in his stead in the market-place
at Peking, but her petition was not granted.
The wives of the three Wangs also entreated that they might be
allowed to die, as substitutes for their husbands, and such devotion brought
f ' O
a free pardon to these men.
\_The virtue of serving the husband's parents, comes next. The eleventh
and twelfth chapters are for the most part superfluous. One passage
towards the close of the former may be noted, viz., " The daughter-in-law
should resemble the shadow and echo of her mother-in-law. So shall she
be praised by all who know her."
And again, in chapter twelfth, we read : '' If you bend your will to obey
the orders of your mother-in-law, she will be pleased, but you will have
only performed your duty. If she makes you eat bitterness, do not forget
this, and even if she is cruel and oppressive, do not hate her."]
Woman's Virtues. 1 1
The Decorum Ritual has a chapter of ' Rules for the Inner Apart-
ments," which instructs sons and their wives to be filial and reverent to
their parents, never disobeying a command nor delaying in its execution.
If their parents give them any food which is disagreeable to them, they
should at least taste it, and await other commands [or permission to put
it aside]. If they o-ive them clothing which does not suit their taste, it
J / cJ ~
must be worn, and commands awaited, as before. If their parents set
them to work, and then send another to do the work in their stead,
though they do not desire this, they will yield up the work to him ; and if
it be done improperly, they can do it over a^ain. If the son does not love
his wife, and his parents say, " She serves its well," he should treat her in
the minutest particular according to the rules of propriety, even until her
death. If the son lines his wife, and she is distasteful to his parents,
he should send her uwav.
Sons and their wives should have no private possessions [from tho
parents]. They should not secretly borrow or secretly give away
Should the relatives of the daughter-in-law bring her a gift [from
eatables to fragrant flowers] she must first offer this gift to her husband's
parents, and if they accept it be as delighted as if they had presented it to
her. If they decline and return it she mu>t receive it as though they
were making her a gift, and lay it by until they may want it. Should