AT THE BEGINNING: THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN NEOLITHIC AND SHANG CHINA* BY DAVID N. KEIGHTLEY (University of California, Berkeley) Abstract Despite the local and frequently disparate nature of the evidence, both archaeologi- cal and inscriptional, and despite the difficulties involved in interpreting that evi- dence, the study of particular topics-such as secondary burial, following-in-death, sex ratios, marriage patterns, childbearing, Shang royal consorts, Shang ancestresses, and lineage terminology-permits the general conclusion that from at least the Late Neolithic until the Late Shang the political and economic status of most women in China, as represented in burial practices and recorded religious beliefs, was, despite some significant exceptions, inferior to that of most men. The present article pro- vides an initial exploration of how such status distinctions emerged and how they functioned. The status of women in early China is a large and complex topic, the disparate evidence not always easy to assess. Many of the difficulties are historiographical. The archaeological evidence from the Neo- lithic presents its own problems of bias, both ancient and modern ;' and the developing Chinese tradition of historical times tended to preserve and exalt texts that stressed the political and social domi- nance of
NAN NÜ – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1999
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