3 concubines 246 3 along with being physically

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Along with being physically attractive came another trait that many women took on in this time period, and that was being submissive to men. As the women wanted to show loyalty and respect for men at all times, men also craved women sexually. There were usually multiple wives and concubines for each man in the house. They fought for the attention of the husband, and this entailed being submissive. “The Spite of Lotus” in “Concubines” exemplifies this when it states, “Ximen gazed in satisfaction at the two well decked-out ladies. Silk hair nets revealing curls at their temples, earrings of blue sapphire, white silken dresses with red bodies and embroidered skirts, tiny arched and pointed slippers – how exquisite their taste was!” 4 This shows that the man, Ximen, was interested in how these women were dressed, he was attracted by the ornate jewelry the women wore, and loved their elaborate clothing. This also shows how these women went out of their way to please men with their accessories in life, as if it was their only purpose. Not only was it the clothes that mattered in being submissive, but the attitudes of the women as well. It was important for them to act and behave a certain way. This way included being gentle and calm, not strong and independent. They also had to be flirtatious and know how to arouse their husbands. This clothing and behavior of being submissive was yet another way how women’s lives revolved around men. Finally, there was a way in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to show ultimate loyalty to a woman’s husband. This went above and beyond showing him affection and physical beauty. This was a matter of a woman taking her own life to show loyalty. It mostly happened after the woman was widowed, and she felt that she had 4 Concubines, 249 4
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nothing else to live for. For example, in the chapter “Widows Loyal Unto Death,” of Chinese Civilizations, it states, “At his death, she embraced him and cried bitterly. After the coffin was closed, she hanged herself to die with her husband.” 5 This shows that this woman did not find it worth living with out her husband at her side. She did not even contemplate living with out him. This goes to show that loyalty really was the utmost matter of women to men during the Ming dynasty. Comparatively, later in the chapter it is written, “Zhang Xiujie married He Liangpeng when she was eighteen. Before a year had passed, he became critically ill. He asked her what she would do, and she pointed to heaven and swore to follow her husband in death.” 6
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