2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Regulations on Women’s Morality: An Analysis of the Views of Zhang Boxing in Early Qing China

Su-hua Ho

Assistant Professor, Center for General Education, National United University

In early Qing China, under the movement to recover China’s past morality, the Kangxi Emperor and his courtiers all sternly criticized the decline of the traditional Chinese order due to the commodity economy in the late Ming. Therefore, Confucians emphasized the task of changing contemporary customs to reconstruct the social order. They believed that social and cultural stability depended on the moral rigor of each individual, especially emphasizing the role of women.

In his collected works, household instructions, and notices, Zhang Boxing, a scholar-official from southeastern China in the early Qing, reiterated the necessity of women’s morality for the reconstruction of the social order, such as forbidding women from commercial activities and generally forbidding them from activities outside the home. Although large numbers of people might be subject to official governance, Zhang’s collected works also described the liveliness of women’s and popular activities, including some activities recognized by the Confucian Six Classics: performing and watching Chinese operas, reading novels, listening to storytellers, believing in divining, and offering sacrifices to the gods. Those records also reveal the sheer variety of women’s activities. All these activities showed that folk practices  and the standards of literati and officials were going on different tracks.


Keywords: Zhang Boxing, Qing, women, scholar-official