An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Nüjie 女誡

Dec 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Nüjie 女誡 "Admonishions to my daughers" is a treatise on female conduct written by the early Eastern Han-period 東漢 (25-220) female scholar Ban Zhao 班昭 (ca. 49-120 CE), the sister of the historian Ban Gu 班固 (32-92 CE).

After the untimely death of her brother, Ban Zhao was entrusted by Emperor He 漢和帝 (r. 88-105) with the compilation of the tables and the treatise on astronomy of the history Hanshu 漢書. She also acted as teacher to Empress Deng 鄧皇后 (80-121 CE) and probably took part in political decisions when the Empress took over regency for the young Emperor An 漢安帝 (r. 106-125). Ban Zhao was married to Cao Shishu 曹世叔.

The Nüjie is divided into seven chapters, each of them covering a topic of female behaviour. In a foreword, Ban Zhao explains that her intention is to help her own daughters to learn how to act and to feel as a women, in order to make their life easier. Shortly resumed, women were seen as inferior to men (nan zun nü bei 男尊女卑) but nevertheless had to develop special qualities as wise wives and good mothers. The Nüjie is the first and most influential book on the status of females in traditional Confucian society.

The Nüjie is included in Ban Zhao's biography in the official dynastic history Houhanshu 後漢書. It is included in the series Shuofu 説郛 (Wanwei shantang edition 宛委山堂) and part of the canon Nü sishu 女四書, printed by Li Guangming 李光明 and the Jiangzuo Shulin Studio 江左書林. It is also included in Zhang Chengxie's 張承燮 collection Nü'er shuji bazhong 女兒書輯八種, printed by the Dongtingyu Studio 東聽雨堂.

There is another book with the same title written on imperial order by the early Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Zhu Sheng 朱升 (1299-1370). The book was finished in 1368 and is probably lost.

There is an English translation by Nancy Lee Swann (1932), Pan Chao: Foremost Woman Scholar of China [...], (New York/London: The Century).

Table 1. Contents of the Nüjie 女誡
1 卑弱 Beiruo Humility
2 夫婦 Fufu Husband and wife
3 敬順 Jingshun Respect and caution
4 婦行 Fuxing Womanly conduct
5 專心 Zhuanxin Singlemindedness
6 曲從 Qucong Implicit obedience
7 和叔妹 He shu mei Harmony with relatives
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