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The Construction of Gender in Modern Chinese Law: Discrepant Gender Meanings in the Republican Civil Code

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This article examines the intersection of law, gender, and modernity during the transitional Republican era (1912–49). It approaches the topic through a critical reading of the Republican Civil Code of 1929–30, and related commentary on the code by Chinese legal experts. By analyzing the gender assumptions embodied in several newly emergent categories of legal regulation, including legal personhood, minimum marriage age, consent, domicile, surnames, marital property, and child custody, the article’s line of questioning reveals how gender meanings helped to shape modern concepts like universality, equality, and freedom. The findings illustrate the ways in which Republican civil law broke with late imperial legal and gender norms tied to Confucian patrilineal ideology and in addition established new legal and gender meanings that helped to consolidate Chinese politics on a republican basis and to reconfigure modern gender difference on a conjugal basis.


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