UBC Theses and Dissertations
The position of Women in T'ai-p'ing T'ien-kuo Pan, Yuh-Cheng
The study attempts to assess the position of women in T'ai-p'ing T'ien-kuo ("The Heavenly Kingdom of Peace"), a rebellious political movement that almost succeeded in overthrowing the Ch'ing dynasty in mid-nineteenth century China. It is argued that the rebellion arose in the context a peasant society suffering the varying dislocations of dynastic decline under the Impact of the West. It was a rebellion that put forward a radical social program and one, especially in its policies towards women, that can be seen as a significant departure from Chinese tradition. The study attempts to examine Taiping policy with regard to marriage and the family; the establishment of separate quarters for women; the role of women in education; civil examinations for women; women officers; the abolition of (female) slavery; the prohibition of adultery and prostitution; and social customs and personal adornments. The study is based on Chinese and English sources. As unorthodox literature Taiping official documents were prohibited and destroyed by the Ch'ing government. They were also greatly damaged by war. Some contemporary accounts in English survive. The data are deficient in many respects and yet indicate the strength and weaknesses of the rebellion and its program. Much of the Taiping program was "western" in origin and is reflective of the early Christian influence, derived from Hong Kong through certain Taiping leaders, on the rebellion. The rebellion had its greatest strength among the disaffected, especially among the Hakka minority of south China. It is argued that Hakka custom was an important contributory element to the Taiping policy for women. The rebellion failed, and its program perished, for a number of reasons, not least of which was the failure of Taiping leadership to rid itself of certain "traditional influences". If the rebellion had succeeded, perhaps the emancipation of Chinese women would not have been delayed until the twentieth century.
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