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At the Beginning: the Status of Women in Neolithic and Shang China*

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Despite the local and frequently disparate nature of the evidence, both archaeological and inscriptional, and despite the difficulties involved in interpreting that evidence, the study of particular topics-such as secondary burial, following-in-death, sex ratios, marriage patterns, childbearing, Shang royal consorts, Shang ancestresses, and lineage terminology-permits the general conclusion that from at least the Late Neolithic until the Late Shang the political and economic status of most women in China, as represented in burial practices and recorded religious beliefs, was, despite some significant exceptions, inferior to that of most men. The present article provides an initial exploration of how such status distinctions emerged and how they functioned.

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Berkeley


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