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Chapter Three YIN-YANG, GENDER ATTRIBUTES, AND COMPLEMENTARITY The discourse on gender where the category of “woman” is seen as both a biological and a social category is a very recent phenomenon in modern China, since in traditional writings, the discourse concerning women primarily is a discourse concerning the propriety of social relations embodied in familial roles such as father/mother, husband/wife, son/daughter, etc.The term “nuxing” 女性 (the female sex) now used to signify both the biological female sex and to convey a sense of universal womanhood, did not appear in the Chinese language until the early twentieth century during the May Fourth Movement.1 Before the “modernization” of literary writing in the May Fourth Movement, the concept of “nuxing” was traditionally designated by the term funu 婦女 (wives and daughters). As Tani Barlow in her “Theorizing Woman: Funu, Guojia, Jiating” pointed out, the term nuxing was originally an invention of the rising new intellectuals around the 1920s. The symbolic meaning of the invented term nuxing is twofold: first, it represents an end to the representation of woman as funu conceived within the bound of jia 家, or familial relationality; second, it symbolizes the beginning of “modernization” in Chinese literary writing where the kinship-neutral term nuxing is used as a conceptual equivalent of the Western concept of “woman” as a discursive category.This is evident in the May Fourth Movement where the term nuxing was perceived as a sign of “Westernization” and “modernization,” and subsequently during the Communist early liberation period of the 1930s and ’40s, it became a sign of Western “bourgeois” woman.2 The representation of “woman” as a kinship-neutral category supported by a set of feminine qualities or defined by inborn biological functions is in fact quite foreign to premodern China. For woman as funu is always concurrent with the discussion about different social roles, especially familial, kinship roles and along with them the observation of proper rituals and the cultivation of corresponding virtues.This is already evident in ancient writings where the word nu was used originally to designate young, unmarried girls, and the word fu for married women. In one of the earliest canons—Shijing (Book of Songs), the word nu found in the well-known first poem,“Guansui,” refers to a virtu45 46 CONFUCIANISM AND WOMEN ous young girl who is a perfect mate for the man of noble birth.“The modest, virtuous nu is a good mate for the king.”3 Traditionally, the young lady, the nu, here is understood as referring to the new bride of the legendary King Wu.4 In the Liji (Book of Rites), unmarried women is designated by the term nuzi 女子 and unmarried men by the term nanzi 男子.5 When a nu 女 is married, she then is conventionally called a fu 婦, as defined in the Shouwen (Explanation of Patterns), one of the earliest Chinese dictionaries. Furthermore , the word fu 婦 (married woman) is often used in a pair with fu* 夫 (husband) to designate one of the social relations—the husband-wife relation —in the Confucian wulun (five relations).The representation of “woman” as funu in the tradition points to the prioritization of familial relations in the process of gendering. A woman belongs primarily to two different social categories: one is nu (unmarried girls or daughters/maids), and the other is fu (married women or wives/mothers). The concept of male and female based on sexual differences alone, in the Chinese literary tradition, is not used to denote man-woman gender relations. The terms mu-pin 牡牝 and xiong-ci 雄雌, which literally mean the male and the female sex, by and large, are used to refer to animals.6 In the Mozi, the terms mu-pin and xiong-ci (the male-female sex), differing from the term nannu (man-woman), explicitly correlates with the kingdom of birds and beasts. “When the sages transmitted [their knowledge], with regard to heaven and earth, they spoke of above and below; with regard to four seasons, they spoke of yin and yang; with regard to human propensity, they spoke of nan and nu; with regard to birds and beasts, they spoke of mu and pin, xiong and ci.”7 The terms mu-pin and xiong-ci belong to the realm of birds and beasts where the reproductive bodies are the primary indication of the male and the female, while the term nan-nu, denoting distinct gender roles and relations, belongs to the human world.The ability to draw distinctions between man...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780791481790
Related ISBN
9780791467497
MARC Record
OCLC
69241542
Pages
210
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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