Lessons for Women
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Lessons for Women (Chinese: 女誡; pinyin: Nǚjiè; Wade–Giles: Nuchieh), also translated as Admonitions for Women, Women's Pre-cepts, or Warnings for Women, is a work by the Han dynasty female intellectual Ban Zhao. As one of the Four Books for Women, Lessons had wide circulation in the late Ming and Qing dynasties. Ban Zhao made the "Admonitions for Women" for her daughters.
Lessons outlines the four virtues a woman must abide by, proper virtue, proper speech, proper countenance, and proper conduct. The book itself describes the status and position of women in society. It is a small book and many women had the sections memorized. The book contains only 7 chapters as outlined below.
|1||卑弱 / 卑弱||Bēi ruò||Humbleness||Humbleness defined the relative natural positions between the male and female sexes. Accordingly, the female was deemed to be the more diminutive of the two and naturally, the more humble.|
|2||夫婦 / 夫妇||Fūfù||Husband and Wife||A husband must govern with dignity and a wife must serve her husband wisely. So that a wife may know how to serve her husband, daughters should be educated.|
|3||敬慎 / 敬慎||Jìng shèn||Respect and Caution||As defined by the yin-yang duality, in yang (men's hardness is his virtue) whereas in yin (women's gentleness was an asset), husband and wife should mutually respect each other.|
|4||婦行 / 妇行||Fù xíng||Womanly Qualifications||Simply the qualifications deemed necessary for the ideal woman whether in her virtue, her type of work, or the words she uses (wifely virtue + wifely speech + wifely appearance + wifely work).|
|5||專心 / 专心||Zhuānxīn||Whole-hearted Devotion||This was usually depicted by the woman's devotion to the husband. For example, if the husband were to die, there would be no remarriage for the widow. This was deemed to be the most virtuous task in later dynasties.|
|6||曲從 / 曲从||Qū cóng||Implicit Obedience||A section that is dedicated to obedience towards the mother and father-in-law.|
|7||叔妹 / 叔妹||Shū mèi||Harmony Between Younger In-laws|
Precepts for WomenEdit
Ban Zhao also wrote on the four desired "Precepts for Women" which were intended to guide women in society. These precepts were: womanly virtue, womanly speech, womanly manner, and womanly merit.
"There are four edifying behavioural characteristics for women: the first is womanly virtue (fude), the second is womanly speech (fuyan), the third is womanly manner (fuyong), and the fourth is womanly merit (fugong). What is womanly virtue? She does not distinguish herself in talent and intelligence. What is womanly speech? She does not sharpen her language and speech. What is womanly manner? She does not seek to be outwardly beautiful or ornamented. What is womanly merit? She does not outperform others in her skills and cleverness."
- Thomas H.C. Lee, Education in Traditional China, A History (Leiden: Brill, 2000), p. 470.