Comparing and Contrasting the Role of Women in China, Japan, and the Mongol Empire During the Postclassical Period

Essay by Sancho604High School, 10th grade April 2004

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In the Postclassical Era, the overall role of women and the roles they played in society began to change. The three major civilizations of China, Japan and the Mongol Empire were no exceptions. The everyday rights of women varied among these societies. The relationships between women and their husbands differed among the civilizations as well. Finally, specific women in each society held positions unique to their own cultures. During the postclassical period, women in China, Japan, and the Mongol Empire played different roles in their respective societies, with the main subjects of comparison being their everyday rights, their relationships with their husbands, and the positions specific individuals held.

In China during the Tang-Song era, the everyday rights of the vast majority of women were reduced. Neo-Confucian scholars supported male dominance and the idea that women should be treated similarly to property, an idea shown through the practice of foot-binding.

Women whose feet were bound were greatly limited in mobility and could not travel far from the family compound. In Japan, some women in the Heian court enjoyed many rights, although they remained subordinate to men. They often wrote poems, played the flute or stringed instruments in informal concerts, and participated in elaborate schemes to snub or disgrace rivals. Some other women participated in guild organizations and were allowed to pass their positions on to their daughters. In the Mongol Empire, women retained many individual rights that women in other societies--particularly China--did not. Mongol women refused to adopt the practice of foot-binding, which so limited the activities of the Chinese women who were subjected to it. They held rights to property and control within the household. They had the freedom to move about the town and countryside, a right which some Mongol women exercised in order to hunt and...