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Grant number: FB-50538-04

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FB-50538-04

Weijing Lu
University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, VA 22401-5300)

Meanings of Marriage in China, 1650-1850

In his path-breaking book, Marriage and Adoption in China, 1845-1945, Arthur P. Wolf points out that "[o]ne of the major tasks facing students of the Chinese family is to map the distribution of marriage forms in late traditional times." (A. Wolf. and Huang 1980). Two decades have passed, but little has been done to explore how marriage patterns diversified and took shape in late imperial history. My project will take up these issues, concentrating on highly differentiated marriage behavior and human interactions surrounding marriages. It will examine not only the diversity of marriage and complexity of social relationships but also the dynamics of gender relations and human emotions that shape the journey of marital life. The project will challenge the conventional marriage paradigm that makes broad assumptions about normative marriage behavior. I will detail various marriage patterns-uxorilocal marriage, little daughter-in-law marriage, cousin marriage, and spirit marriage--looking at how different forms of marriage functioned and how they were constructed and understood. Furthermore, I will question the assumption that in traditional China a woman was denied support from both her natal and marital families and that she enjoyed no conjugal affection and intimacy. I will explore marriage as a gendered personal experience, looking at how gender values and emotions intersected in marriage practices. Arguing that the modernist view of "love marriage" is not appropriate for analyzing marriage in late imperial China, I will explore cultural practices, such as the presentation of betrothal gifts, the making of dowries by girls themselves, the exchange of poems between husbands and wives, for contemporary understandings of conjugal love, among men and women.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
East Asian History

Program:
Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Division:
Research Programs

Total amounts:
$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2004 – 6/30/2005