Comparing and Contrasting Tang and Song Women

Essay by VBC April 2008

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The roles and status of Tang and Song women greatly differed from each other, as the Tang women's roles and status were influenced by the traditions of Turkic peoples of Central and Inner China and by Buddhism, while roles and status of the Song women were strictly influenced by the neo-Confucian factors of the Song Empire.

The Tang Empire was a highly multicultural empire for its time, and thus, one could see numerous cultural traditions in this country. Amongst the more important ones was the cultural tradition of the Turkic people. From these people did the Tang get their iron-stirrups and appreciation for horses and camels, as portrayed on numerous vases and pottery of that time period. With such traditions came different views towards women. As Document 3 shows, women of Central and Inner Asia were critical in the all aspects of daily life. They often headed households, owned property and even managed business.

This attitude towards women came to the Tang China and resulted into a far more free society than its predecessors. Tang women were encouraged to do many things they did not do before, for example, exert their influence in politics, arts and managing property. The Chinese noblewomen, as Document 2 depicts, were even to ride horses and play man games, strongly contrasting the traditional Chinese perspective on women being docile and complacent. Though their laws, as Document 1 shows, still had the old Confucian feel to them, the Tang women were given more rights to defend themselves at court.

Buddhism was another factor that had lead women to acquire more power in the Tang Empire. Due to the Buddhist belief in boddhistavas, it was a very flexible religion that many people could use to get to power, even women. A perfect would be Wu...