Monday, March 7, 2016

Empress' Etiquette Book of 1405

Mount Tai may crumble away or she may have to walk over sharp-edged swords, but this resolve must not pass from her. 



Royal Chinese Authoress
Wrote a Book of
Social Etiquette in the Year 1405

The Empress Consort of the Emperor Yung Lo of the Ming dynasty in A. D. 1105, committed to paper her thoughts on the behavior of women, under the title of "Instructions for the Inner Apartments," i. e. for women. These are arranged under twenty headings, with an additional chapter on the education of girls. 

The Empress lays much stress on gentleness, good temper, economy, kind treatment of the young and of relatives, but thinks that speech unrestrained is the real rock upon which most women split. "If your mouth is like a closed door, your words will become proverbial; but if it is like a running tap, no heed will be paid to what you say." In her additional chapter on education, which is really more or less a doggerel poem of about three hundred and fifty lines, our authoress will be considered very disappointing by some. 

So far from pleading for higher education for Chinese women, she urges only that a girl's governess should teach her pupil to practise filial piety, virtue, propriety, deportment, good manners and domestic duties as a preparation for her "entry into married life." Then, if she has no children, to continue the ancestral line, she is not to show jealousy, but rather satisfaction if her husband takes a subordinate wife. 

Supposing that he dies before her, she will be left like earth without its heaven, and must transfer her dependence to her son and summon up her resolution to face widowhood until death. Mount Tai may crumble away or she may have to walk over sharp-edged swords, but this resolve must not pass from her. 

Examples are given of heroines of all ages who have died by hanging or drowning themselves rather than violate their marriage vow. "Their bodies, indeed, suffered injury in life, but their names will be fragrant for ten thousand generations." — Los Angeles Herald, 1904

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