A look into China’s Past

I’m still very unsure as to what exactly I want to research while I am abroad in China. Performing ethnographic research in Beijing is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I just really hope to make the most of it.  On my previous blog post, I wrote about two project proposals. In this blog post, I wish to extrapolate on the proposal regarding gender roles. In order to study and observe gender nuances in Beijing, I figured it would be a good idea to look into the historical differences among men and women in China.


To start, China’s one-child policy  was introduced in the early 1980s by the central government.  While the purpose of this policy was to control China’s overwhelmingly large population, it had numerous other consequences.  The general composition of China’s population changed, as the country’s overall sex ratio is notably skewed toward males.  Historically, male children have always been preferred in China, particularly in rural areas. This was because men were not only responsible for caring for the elderly, but also for passing along the family name. When this policy was implemented, giving birth to a female baby became increasingly undesirable as couples did not have a chance to try for a boy.  This triggered a boost in abortion rates for female fetuses, and even infanticide of baby girls.


Aspects of traditional Chinese culture seem to encourage gender discrimination, as do many Western cultures.  The Chinese have viewed femininity in terms of the “complementary but also hierarchical pair of yin (negative) and yang (positive).”  Men as powerful, women as weak.  Men as intelligent and purposeful, women as unintelligent. Additionally, the long history of Confucian indoctrination has further reinforced and instilled woman as the inferior of the sexes.  A Chinese woman had been raised and instructed to “obey three men in her life: her father as a daughter, her husband as a wife, and her son when widowed.”  China, since then, has made great leaps toward gender equality.  Of course, there is still more than enough room for improvement, as women are often discriminated against men in the workplace, etc.

I hope that these articles and initial research into China’s past has helped me to gain some insight into the gender roles that have been imbedded into Chinese life today.