Frontiers of Philosophy in China 15 (2):198-222 (2020)

Abstract
An understanding of the roles and representations of women in classical Chinese philosophy is here derived from central texts such as the Analects, the Lienu Zhuan, and the I Ching. We argue that the roles of women during the classical period of Chinese philosophy tended to be as part of the “inner,” working domestically as a housewife and mother. This will be shown from three passages from the Analects. Women were represented as submissive and passive, as with the qualities ascribed to yin energy, and therefore as rightfully subordinate to men. However, despite representations of women in philosophy being thus at this time, there were exceptions, specific women who could take a male “outer” political role. The story of Ling Liang from the Lienu Zhuan suggests that although women being involved in “outer” affairs was looked down on, there were still women who would be and who would occasionally get praised for doing so. This shows that it was realised, explicitly or otherwise, that women were capable of taking those roles, but also that they were not allowed to take such roles at that time.
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