Sample Research Paper on Women’s Rights in Tang Dynasty

Women’s Rights in Tang Dynasty

With the end of the Qing dynasty in AD 1911, the Chinese community witnessed a lot of dramatic changes in the history of women’s rights, women’s activism as well as gender ideologies (Chen, 2014). The Chinese women enjoyed exceptionally high matriarchal powers as compared to the previous Chinese dynasties. The tang dynasty woman at the same time enjoyed increased rights and roles as evidenced in their social status. This was observed by the rising of the first feminist emperor, who brought about the reformation of policies that were related to sexual equalities and inclusion of women in political banquets (Schireson, 2009). Prior to this era, women were seen as slaves or men’s servants and had no powers over almost everything. They were therefore helpless and unable to achieve any meaningful development within the society. Notably, because of the liberal status of the Tang’s regime, the status of women was recognized and they began to rise. Women therefore started to advance in education, were able to divorce without difficulties, were employed as well as engaged in political and religious affairs (Chang, 2009). Despite this fact, the status of women differed between the low and high class, whereby, many of those in the rural areas were considered as low class women while the urban women, who were elite took the high places in society. This being the case, women have been regarded highly and have been empowered to possess equal rights as compared to men. Even though this fact is not entirely true, as like in many other states and regimes that did not view women as equal partners, there has been significant improvement in the roles accorded to women by the constitution and moral codes. This paper aims at discussing women’s rights in the tang dynasty.

The Tang dynasty operated in a civil service system whereby the officials administered standardized exams for potential employees. This system helped in improving the Chinese culture. The dynasty is credited with civilization as it had dominance in economic, military power as well as in foreign transactions and relations. As stated, the woman was treated to be a lesser being as compared to men in many working areas, but the women in the Tang era, unlike their predecessors, enjoyed higher social status. The transformation brought about the uplifting of women’s values as well as the significant elevation of the women’s role in society. Women like Yang Yuhuan are considered an icon of beauty in the Chinese history.

In terms of decision making, the women were tasked with the roles of making decisions regarding their duties. In particular, the older women (adult) had the role of deciding whether to perform an abortion or grant life to any child who was illegitimate. This aspect has great social and economic influences that explain the freedom and dependency that the Tang women had over decisions (Schireson, 2009). Despite this fact, the women from the royal families had freedom and were not subjected to the marital restrictions. In this, they had the right to marry and remarry thus expressing their rights and freedoms.

Great importance was accorded to education where women were granted the same rights as the men in enhancing the education of their children. In the Tang’s regime, the role of women in family education is certain, whereby women taught their children as they had an excellent background in educating themselves. Different from other dynasties, the women taught their children, according to the Confucian principles, whereby the Tang regime women were attentive to the official career direction of their children as well as teaching their sons personally. The educational success of the women led to the improvement of their social status, as they were able to enjoy more rights in the family life as compared to women in the past regimes (Yao, 2014). Though it was the role of men to coach their sons, the Tang women were able to instill moral values on their children as they taught them. Because of the social classes, the social role of the women did not change much in the rural setting or for the low class tang women, as they continued being viewed as domestic workers and farm laborers by their husbands. Little therefore changed then as there was limited exposure to the outside world where women were becoming more useful in society. As they became enlightened, their social status was improved, setting a better stage for them in the society where they could be recognized as women of value unlike the traditional slave or domestic workers view.

The Tang regime women contributed greatly to the expansion of literature. This was evident through the composition of poems by the women. The poems provided moral thoughts on the people’s lives at the time. This led to the recognition and respect for women in the society (Despeux, & Kohn, 2003).

The women played a vital role in the economy of the dynasty as they had various ranks in the business world. Some of them were emperors, others princesses, entrepreneurs, laborers and even others engaged in prostitution. Lower class women engaged in low to medium jobs of vendors and laborers while higher class women engaged in classy undertakings. This fact was attributed to their realization that they could not only rely on men for assistance, but could also perform economically viable undertakings that could help them. Wu Zao became the first emperor in Chinese history, setting pace on how women could rely on themselves in feeding their families.

The women also pursued beauty and fashion, and this led to the introduction of various outfits among the Chinese people. Their dresses helped in addressing the various body sizes, ensuring that the women looked beautiful and attractive.


Women had been declared inferior by the previous regimes when compared to men in work and other social aspects. The Tang dynasty viewed women as in the history of mankind and treated women equally as with men. Even though this fact could not be clearly seen as women have been taken to occupy the second position after men, the tang women made tremendous contribution in the history of the Chinese women. The women from the royal families were not subject to the previous marital restrictions as the other people and could therefore divorce upon mutual approval with no consequential punishment. Great value was attached to education where women received equal value as of men. The women educated their sons on the best career paths different from what the past regimes did. The foundation of the traditional feudal systems was abolished, granting nearly the same rights to women as the men. The women were therefore able to participate in politics, trade, and military skills. Women were even allowed to engage in priesthood. Nonetheless, life for the ordinary people did not change much expect for those near and close to the centers of power.


Chang, D. T. (2009). Women’s movements in twentieth-century Taiwan. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Print.

Chen, Y. C. (Ed.). (2014). New Modern Chinese Women and Gender Politics: The Centennial of the End of the Qing Dynasty. Routledge. Print.

Despeux, C., & Kohn, L. (2003). Women in Daoism. Cambridge, MA: Three Pines Press. Print.

Schireson, G. J. (2009). Zen women: Beyond tea ladies, iron maidens, and macho masters. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. Print.

Yao, P. (2014). Tang Women in the transformation of Buddhist filiality. In Jia, J., Kang, X., & Yao, P. (Eds). Gendering Chinese religion: Subject, identity, and body (pp. 25-46). New York: State University of New York Press. Print.