Analects Book 1: on women

Even on the rare occasions that women are mentioned in the Analects, it is generally in reference to their role as a mother or wife rather than as an individual in their own right.

In Chapter VII of Book 1, the disciple Zixia sets the tone by describing a “learned man” as one who “values virtue over beauty” (presumably in his prospective or actual wife) and “devotes all his energy to serving his father and mother.”

A woman is thus to be loved and respected, revered even, for the role she plays in family life; but when she steps beyond this boundary, as in the case of Nanzi (南子), the consort of Duke Ling of Wei (衛靈公), she is treated with downright suspicion and contempt.

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