Lessons for Women

Lessons for Women

Lessons for Women (zh-cpw|c=女誡|p=Nǚjiè|xiong|w=Nuchieh) is a work by the Han Dynasty female intellectual Ban Zhao.


Lessons for Women outlines the four virtues a woman must abide by, proper virtue, proper speech, proper countenance, and proper conduct. The book itself describes the status and position of women in society. It is a small book and many women had the sections memorized. The book contains only 7 chapters as outlined below. Most are relatively obvious from their titles.


Chapter Chinese Pinyin Translation Subject
1 卑弱 Beiruo HumilityHumility defined the relative natural positions between the male and female sexes. Accordingly, the female was deemed to be the more diminutive of the two and naturally, the more humble.
2 夫妇 Fufu Husband and WifeThe sole role of a woman as a wife was to serve her husband.
3 敬慎 Jingshen Respect and CautionAs defined by the yin and yang duality, in yang (men's hardness is his virtue) whereas in yin (women's weakness was an asset), husband and wife should mutually respect each other.
4 妇行 Fuxing Womanly Qualifications Simply the qualifications deemed necessary for the ideal woman whether in her virtue, her type of work, or the words she uses.(wifely virtue + wifely speech + wifely appearance + wifely work)
5 专心 Zhuanxin Whole-hearted DevotionThis was usually depicted by the woman's devotion to the husband. For example, if the husband were to die, there would be no re-marriage for the widow. This was deemed to be the most virtuous task in later dynasties.
6 曲从 Qucong Implicit ObedienceA section that is dedicated to obedience towards the mother and father in law.
7 叔妹 Shumei Harmony Between Younger In-laws 

Precepts for Women

Ban Zhao also wrote on the four desired "Precepts for Women" which were intended to guide women in society. These precepts were ■ womanly virtue, womanly speech, womanly manner and womanly merit.

quotation|"“There are four edifying behavioural characteristics for women: the first is womanly virtue (fude), the second is womanly speech (fuyan), the third is womanly manner (fuyong), and the fourth is womanly merit (fugong).What is womanly virtue? She does not distinguish herself in talent and intelligence. What is womanly speech? She does not sharpen her language and speech. What is womanly manner? She does not seek to be outwardly beautiful or ornamented. What is womanly merit? She does not outperform others in her skills and cleverness.” [Thomas H.C. Lee, Education in Traditional China, A History (Leiden: Brill, 2000), p. 470.]


ee also

*Book of Han

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