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Gender and Burial in Imperial China: An Investigation of Women's Space in Fujian Tombs of the Song Era (960-1279)

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This paper examines how Song dynasty (960-1279) contemporaries viewed women's place in the afterlife. It analyzes archaeological reports on women's and men's tombs in Song Fujian as well as relevant writings by Song era Neo-Confucian scholars. Despite Neo-Confucians' strong emphasis on gender segregation among the living, both textual and material evidence show that the increasingly hardened gender hierarchy did not carry over into the afterlife. Prescription of gender distinctions in burial practices is virtually absent from neo-Confucians' writings. The structure of tombs implies that communication between women and men after death was expected, not suppressed. Similarities overwhelm differences among women's and men's grave goods, which resemble each other in both object categories and decorative motifs. Women's place in the afterlife was not a reflection of the hierarchies on earth but a new construction.

Affiliations: 1: Columbia University;, Email:


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