Chinese patriarchy Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_patriarchy

Patriarchy in China refers to the history and prevalence of male dominance in Chinese society and culture, although patriarchy is not exclusive to Chinese culture and exists all over the world.


Confucianism and Imperial China[edit]

Confucian conceptions of filial piety has been focused on preserving the traditional role of the father as the primary leader and decision maker of the family. In the hierarchy of traditional Chinese cultural family life, the father and sons take prominence over the mother and daughters.[citation needed] A cliché of classical texts, which is repeated throughout the tradition, is the familiar notion that men govern the outer world, while women govern the home.

Mencius outlined the three subordinations. A woman was to be subordinate to her father in youth, her husband in maturity, and her son in old age.[1] Familial relationships are prefixed, and family lifestyles and behaviors are constrained by social norms. [2]

In the Han dynasty, the female historian Ban Zhao wrote the Lessons for Women, advice on how women should behave. She outlines the four virtues women must abide by: proper virtue, proper speech, proper countenance, proper merit. The "three subordinations and the four virtues" is a common four-character phrase throughout the imperial period.[citation needed]

As for the historical development of Chinese patriarchy, women's status was highest in the Tang dynasty, when women played sports (polo) and were generally freer in fashion and conduct. Between the Tang and Song dynasties, a fad for little feet arose, and from the Song dynasty onwards foot binding became more and more common for the elite. In the Ming dynasty, a tradition of virtuous widowhood developed. Widows, even if widowed at a young age, would be expected not to remarry. Their virtuous names might be displayed on the arch at the entrance of the village.[citation needed]

20th century onwards[edit]

Features of patriarchy in 20th and 21st century China are a combination of contemporary problems found even in the West and traditional Chinese issues.

Men hold most of the major positions of power within the country, especially in the political and military spheres. However, with the decline of traditional practices through the 20th century, women have come to enjoy virtually equal economic power. This is especially true in the cities, where the social stigma of being a working woman is virtually nonexistent, although skepticism of unmarried, career-minded women is increasing.[3] Although both genders face strong pressure to be married, women who remain unmarried past the age of 25 are shamed by state media with the label leftover women.[4]

In addition, foot binding and arranged marriages have been virtually eradicated.[5]

There is also the issue of forced abortions in China, especially for sex selection purposes; authorities have been accused of giving the women virtually no control over their bodies in this area.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joanne D. Birdwhistell (2007). Mencius and Masculinities: Dynamics of Power, Morality, and Maternal Thinking. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-8038-0. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  2. ^ Chen, F. (2005). "Residential patterns of parents and their married children in contemporary China: A life course approach". Population Research and Policy Review. 24 (2): 125–148. doi:10.1007/s11113-004-6371-9. S2CID 71709934.
  3. ^ Tatlow, Didi Christian; Forsythe, Michael (20 February 2015). "In China's Modern Economy, a Retro Push Against Women". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Magistad, Mary Kay (20 February 2013). "BBC News - China's 'leftover women', unmarried at 27". BBC News. Beijing. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  5. ^ Schiavenza, Matt (16 September 2013). "The Peculiar History of Foot Binding in China". The Atlantic.
  6. ^ Fong, Mei (5 January 2016). One Child.