When a son is born,
Let him sleep on the bed,
Clothe him with fine clothes,
And give him jade to play...
When a daughter is born,
Let her sleep on the ground,
Wrap her in common wrappings,
And give broken tiles to play...
From the Book of Songs (1000 – 700 B.C.)
The recent P&G research and immersion project bought me to work on this interesting topic. To learn about Chinese woman, we need to start with the very beginning.
Traditionally, Chinese culture has placed high value on males within the society. Boys are preferred as they could carry out the family name. Girls were simply a waste of money as they will eventually marry out and belong to another family once they got married. Few women ever had any sort of education, they were not allowed to go to school or work outside of the house. If the family is rich then young girls will learn how to do embroidery, play music and painting in a way to please her future husband.
For over 1600 years, the beauty of a Chinese woman was simply judged and measured by the size of her feet, if it is under 3 inches, she will be regarded as beautiful. Therefore more chance to marry up and finding a rich husband.
The big change of women's fate in China started around the beginning of 1900, inspired by the Song sisters whom went to American university, spoke excellent English and their feet were never bounded. All of them married amazingly well, the oldest one married to the owner of Bank of China (Richest man in China), mid one married to Sun Yat-sen (Father of Modern China), the youngest one married to Chiang Kai-shek (Leader of the Nationalist Party) and became the First Lady.
Starting then, Chinese women were finally able to study at university, travel overseas and work at a company. Mega cities like Shanghai became the fashion center in China, and Shanghai girls came into the stage and they became the icon of beauty and fashion.
Women read The Young Companion, an important representative of Republican Shanghai’s popular magazines, and their style of hair and cloth changed completely. You have sexy Qipao and see through fabrics.
Some women even find work as model and pose for Ads. 1930s were the most glamorous time in Shanghai. It is sexy and it is tempting, everything is possible.
In communist era, women's fashion changed again. Beauty need to be simple and no make ups. The farming or working girls were valued as the most attractive women in China.
"Women is half of the sky."said by Mao. After 1949s, China was poor and in need of man power. So this really speed up the changes of women's status in China as they HAVE TO come out of their house and WORK. Obedient wife were regarded as something "bad". Women need to be strong, as the country need them to work.
Women's love life became much more liberal, they could freely marry to whoever they like and their parents could not force them for arranged marriage anymore.
The biggest change was the One Child Policy. In 1979, China introduced one of the world's most extreme state mandated policies for population control, one in which all married couples were to be restricted to having only one child. Since this policy's implementation. China has experienced changes in filial piety and patrilineality. In a land where sons have been highly cherished for thousands of years. Daughters are now experiencing greater parental investment and consequently greater gender equality within their society. China's One-Child Policy has indirectly benefited the role of women in society.
Now, after thirty-two years of the One-Child Policy, those who were born as an only child under the policy are becoming parents themselves. As to be expected, some of these individuals were daughters. Without having to compete with brothers, much more parental investment has been focused on these daughters in terms of education, pride, and wealth. These daughters, who were the only child in their family, have increasingly become active members of Chinese society. Higher education levels have provided a means for women to work in non-traditional jobs outside of the home. Women's earnings can then be focused not only on their own offspring, but for their own parents as well.