Monday, September 21, 2015


The exclusive world of the Emperor's Concubines that we've been exploring in the dramatic story of EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI this month, is a world in which women are controlled from birth to death and even those who manage to manipulate their way to the top have to do so within restrictive protocols.
Present day mistresses are often assumed to be in wait to be a man's next legal wife, but while reading Peony in Love, one of a few books by author Lisa See that I've read that are based on the old Chinese or Chinese-Americans, I realized that for some Mistresses as was the case for some Chinese Concubines, there was freedom in not being a wife.
Did you know that a Chinese man's concubine's were considered to be his property even in the afterworld?

Lisa See's novel is based on the way of life that the Chinese lived in the 17th century and her main character is a the only child and daughter of a wealthy man who's own marriage is arranged. Kept secluded and far from the facts of life, she dreams of romance and passion with a man of her own choosing.

Her own father has concubines and all such girls, when imagining what the man they have been arranged to marry will be like, knows that the concubines are freer than they are.

Page 37

"Since marriages were arranged and neither the bride or the groom had any say in the match, concubines were every wife's fear. Husbands fell in love with concubines. They came together by choice, had no responsibilities, and would delight in each other's company, while marriages were a matter of duty and a way to provide sons who, in time, would perform rites in the ancestral hall."

The story is richly written, and set in a crucial time, about 1644, when the Ming dynasty fell and the Quing, lead by the Manchus, began, and the country is in turmoil. This crisis became an opportunity for some women to lead a freer and more expressive life in China before life became more repressive again and women did take the opportunity.

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