In Chinese philosophy’s encounter with modernity and feminist discourse,
Neo-Confucianism often suffered the most brutal attacks and criticisms. In “Neo-Confucians and Zhu Xi on Family and Woman: Challenges and Potentials,” Ann A. Pang-White investigates Song Neo-Confucians’ views (in particular, that of Zhu Xi) on women by examining the Classified Conversations of Zhu Xi (Zhuzi Yulei),the Reflections on Things at Hand (Jinsi Lu), Further Reflections on Things at Hand (Xu Jinsi Lu), and other texts. Pang-White also takes a close look at the Song law regarding women’s property rights and the Song educational system. Surprisingly, Zhu exhibited a level of flexibility, though still limited, on these subjects. He was particularly adamant about the importance of women’s education. In addition,even though he opposed the social practice and women’s ownership of dowry (seeing it as a form of commercializing marriage), he did not absolutely oppose women’s property rights. However, his normative and philosophical view on the
male/yang and female/yin relationship was less satisfactory. At one place, he used it to illustrate gender equity; at another place, he defended female subordination. Zhu’s social-political teaching on women’s role could benefit from a more consistent development of his metaphysics of li-qi and yin-yang , which can bring new insight to the contemporary feminist “essentialist versus non-essentialist” debate on sex and gender.