Grooming a Daughter for Marriage: Brides and Wives in the Mid-Qing Period

Susan Mann

in Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780520211032
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520935303 | DOI:
Grooming a Daughter for Marriage: Brides and Wives in the Mid-Qing Period

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This chapter discusses concepts of marriage, brides, and wives in the Mid-Qing period. Marriage was the ladder of success for women in late imperial China. But a lavish dowry often became a burden: it testified the bride's family status, and it was likely to complement generous betrothal gifts, one gauge of the groom's ability to provide for a daughter's long-term security. However, that produced an unusual series of conversations about wives and brides in the writings of mid-Qing intellectuals. Marriage in mid-Qing China was a contract that aimed above all at reproducing class structures. State law, and the system of moral beliefs sanctioned norms governing marriage, and thereby protected the existing class hierarchy. However, those sanctions cut two ways: they could protect class-endogamous marriage markets, or they could undermine them. The discourse on marriage that emerged during the mid-Qing period points to the ways in which the boundaries around sacrosanct marriage markets were being challenged.

Keywords: marriage; bride; wife; Mid-Qing period; class structure; dowry

Chapter.  12851 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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