Three Obediences and Four Virtues

Last updated

The Three Obediences and Four Virtues (Chinese : ; pinyin : Sān cóng ) is a set of moral principles and social code of behaviour for maiden and married women in East Asian Confucianism, especially in Ancient and Imperial China. Women were to obey their fathers, husbands, and sons, and to be modest and moral in their actions and speech. Some imperial eunuchs both observed these principles themselves and enforced them in imperial harems, aristocratic households and society at large.



The two terms ("three obediences" and "four virtues") first appeared in the Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial and in the Rites of Zhou respectively, which codified the protocol for an elegant and refined culture for Chinese civilization. The protocol was originally meant to define the various parts of a harmonious society and not intended as a rule book. This code has heavily influenced ancient and imperial China and influenced both Korea, Vietnamese and Japan as prescribed social philosophy even into the twentieth century. [1] (The four Confucian virtues include righteousness, ritual propriety, wisdom, and humanity.)

Three Feminine Obediences

The three obediences for born females are to obey, give obéisances and follow the spiritual, ethical and moral wisdom of:

  1. her father as a maiden daughter (Chinese : ; pinyin : Wèi jià cóng )
  2. her husband as a chaste wife (Chinese : ; pinyin : jià cóng )
  3. her sons, and upon conflicts, in prioritized order according to the seniority of each, as a widow in perpetuity dedicated to clan and family (Chinese : ; pinyin : cóng )

Four Feminine Virtues

The Four Feminine Virtues for women are: [2]

  1. Feminine Virtue in Ethics in matrimony (Chinese : ; pinyin : )
  2. Feminine Virtue in Speech in matrimony (Chinese : ; pinyin : yán )
  3. Feminine Virtue in Visage i.e. 'comportement' / manners / facial appearance, in matrimony (Chinese : ; pinyin : róng )
  4. Feminine Virtue in "Works" / 'oeuvres' i.e. active and ongoing feminine participation in chaste, monogamous, matrimonially-restricted sexual intercourse as a virgin preserved for a lifelong monogamous marriage arranged for the first and foremost interest and benefit of the Empire/State (in the case of Imperialty, extant Imperialty and/or any extant Royalty, Aristocracy), clan and family bridewealth and the name and moral fame of the patrilineal clans of birth, especially of the husband and in-laws but also of self and the mother's patrilineal clan of origin, and with virginity preserved until spiritually presented on wedding day upon clan-officiated and family-arranged marriage; lifetime monogamous maximal reproduction especially of son heirs and chaste daughters normally about ten offsprings at least five of which are healthy sons; loyal child-birth for the only one spouse in a lifelong marriage; and enlightened, dedicated and responsible child-rearing in lifelong maternity; spiritual, religious, moral, ethical and philosophical education of children; etc. (Chinese : ; pinyin : gōng )

See also

Related Research Articles

Confucianism Chinese ethical and philosophical system

Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life, Confucianism developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius.

Chinese philosophy Philosophy in the Chinese cultural sphere

Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period (春秋) and Warring States period (戰國時期), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments. Although much of Chinese philosophy begun in the Warring States period, elements of Chinese philosophy have existed for several thousand years. Some can be found in the I Ching, an ancient compendium of divination, which dates back to at least 672 BCE. It was during the Warring States era that what Sima Tan termed the major philosophical schools of China—Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism—arose, along with philosophies that later fell into obscurity, like Agriculturalism, Mohism, Chinese Naturalism, and the Logicians. Even in modern society, Confucianism is still the creed of etiquette for Chinese society.

Yongzheng Emperor Emperor of Qing-dynasty China from 1722 to 1735

The Yongzheng Emperor was the fourth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the third Qing emperor to rule over China proper. He reigned from 1722 to 1735. A hard-working ruler, the Yongzheng Emperor's main goal was to create an effective government at minimal expense. Like his father, the Kangxi Emperor, the Yongzheng Emperor used military force to preserve the dynasty's position.

Moderately prosperous society or Xiaokang society, is a Chinese term, originally of Confucianism, used to describe a society composed of a functional middle-class. In December 1979, Deng Xiaoping, then paramount leader of China, first proposed the idea of "Xiaokang" based on the "Four Modernizations".

Filial piety Virtue and practice in Chinese classics and Chinese society at large

In Confucian, Chinese Buddhist and Taoist ethics, filial piety is a virtue of respect for one's parents, elders, and ancestors. The Confucian Classic of Filial Piety, thought to be written around the late Warring States-Qin-Han period, has historically been the authoritative source on the Confucian tenet of filial piety. The book, a purported dialogue between Confucius and his student Zengzi, is about how to set up a good society using the principle of filial piety. Filial piety is central to Confucian role ethics.

The Rites of Zhou, originally known as "Officers of Zhou" is a work on bureaucracy and organizational theory. It was renamed by Liu Xin to differentiate it from a chapter in the Book of History by the same name. To replace a lost work, it was included along with the Book of Rites and the Etiquette and Ceremonial – becoming one of three ancient ritual texts listed among the classics of Confucianism.

Chinese kinship System of family relationships in China

The Chinese kinship system is classified as a "Sudanese" or "descriptive" system for the definition of family.

Scholar-official Learned men awarded government positions in Imperial China

The scholar-officials, also known as literati, scholar-gentlemen or scholar-bureaucrats, were government officials and prestigious scholars in Chinese society, forming a distinct social class.

The Four Books and Five Classics are the authoritative books of Confucianism, written in China before 300 BCE. The Four Books and the Five Classics are the most important classics of Chinese Confucianism.

The ranks of imperial consorts have varied over the course of Chinese history but remained important throughout owing to its importance in management of the inner court and in imperial succession, which ranked heirs according to the prominence of their mothers in addition to their strict birth order. Regardless of the age, however, it is common in English translation to simplify these hierarchy into the three ranks of Empress, consorts, and concubines. It is also common to use the term "harem", an Arabic loan word used in recent times to refer to imperial women's forbidden quarters in many countries. In later Chinese dynasties, these quarters were known as the back palace. In Chinese, the system is called the Rear Palace System.

Jing zuo refers to the Neo-Confucian meditation practice advocated by Zhu Xi and Wang Yang-ming. Jing zuo can also be described as a form of spiritual self-cultivation that helps a person achieve a more fulfilling life.

Women in ancient and imperial China were restricted from participating in various realms of social life, through social stipulations that they remain indoors, whilst outside business should be conducted by men. The strict division of the sexes, apparent in the policy that "men plow, women weave", partitioned male and female histories as early as the Zhou dynasty, with the Rites of Zhou even stipulating that women be educated specifically in "women's rites". Though limited by policies that prevented them from owning property, taking examinations, or holding office, their restriction to a distinctive women's world prompted the development of female-specific occupations, exclusive literary circles, whilst also investing certain women with certain types of political influence inaccessible to men. Women had greater freedom during the Tang dynasty, however, the status of women declined from the Song dynasty onward, which has been blamed on the rise of neo-Confucianism, and restrictions on women became more pronounced.

Zhao Yuanyan

Zhao Yuanyan, officially the Prince Gongsu of Zhou (周恭肅王) (985-1044), was an imperial prince of the Chinese Song Dynasty, known for his virtues. He was the 8th son of Emperor Taizong and a younger brother of Emperor Zhenzong. He was referred to as the "Eighth Prince" (八大王). He was the only surviving paternal uncle of Emperor Renzong during the latter's reign.

In Chinese philosophy, xin can refer to either one's "heart" and "mind", or to the concept of sincerity or faithfulness.

Society in the Joseon Dynasty

Society in the Joseon Dynasty was built upon Neo-Confucianist ideals, namely the three fundamental principles and five moral disciplines. There were four classes: the yangban nobility, the "middle class" jungin, sangmin, or the commoners, and the cheonmin, the outcasts at the very bottom. Society was ruled by the yangban, who constituted 10% of the population and had several privileges. Slaves were of the lowest standing.

Confucian church Congregational religious institutions of Confucianism

The Confucian church is a Confucian religious and social institution of the congregational type. It was first proposed by Kang Youwei (1858–1927) near the end of the 19th century, as a state religion of Qing China following a European model.

Four Books for Women

The Four Books for Women was a collection of material intended for use in the education of young Chinese women. In the late Ming and Qing dynasties, it was a standard text read by the daughters of aristocratic families. The four books had circulated separately and were combined by the publishing house Duowen Tang in 1624.

Marriage coin charm

Marriage coin charms are a category of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese numismatic charms that depict marriage, harmonious, and/or sexual imagery. These coin charms often imitate the design of Chinese cash coins, but can exist in many different shapes and sizes.

Mingfu was granted to wives of officials, non-imperial aristocrats and collateral clanswomen. Also, mothers of imperial consorts were granted a title of mingfu according to the rank held by her daughter as well as sisters of imperial consorts. A title was granted to nursemaids of emperors and attendants of imperial consorts. Noblewomen were divided into 7 ranks according to the rank of her husband and her daughter, if her daughter was an imperial consort. If the title held by mingfus' husbands was divided into subclasses, they could be treated equally.

Three Fundamental Bonds and Five Constant Virtues Confucian teaching

In Confucianism, the Sangang Wuchang, sometimes translated as the Three Fundamental Bonds and Five Constant Virtues or the Three Guiding Principles and Five Constant Regulations, or more simply "bonds and virtues", are the three most important human relationships and the five most important virtues. They are considered the moral and political requirements of Confucianism as well as the eternal unchanging "essence of life and bonds of society."