Women in Ancient China. Bret Hinsch. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. 226 pp., 20 figures, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. Hardback US $79, ISBN 978-1-5381-1540-4.

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2019-10-04
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Lullo, Sheri A.
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Abstract
Bret Hinsch has made a number of contributions to the history of gender and sexuality in China, primarily for the ancient and premodern eras. His latest book, Women in Ancient China, "details the process of growing sexual inequality as it unfolded" across the Neolithic, Shang, and Western and Eastern Zhou periods (seventh millennium to third century B.C.) (p. x). This work greatly expands upon Hinsch's summary of these periods in a chapter in his other recent book, Women in Imperial China (Hinsch 2016:1–32). It also serves as a welcome and long-awaited companion to his Women in Early Imperial China (2002), which covers the Qin and Han periods (third century B.C.–A.D. third century). Like many of his books, Women in Ancient China takes a chronological approach, which allows Hinsch to examine the various ways that a woman's identity and status were affected by the shifting social, political, and institutional structures of each ruling power. Thus, each chapter is a comparative study that looks both back in time and anticipates future developments or changes. Drawing from multiple disciplinary perspectives, this useful and comprehensive study synthesizes the growing body of secondary scholarship on women's lives in ancient China. Hinsch's central thesis is that "growing institutional complexity affected female rights and privileges" (p. xii). The study details the various ways that gendered hierarchy became standardized with the expansion of a patriarchal governing system, relegating women to roles in which they invariably served to aid or help legitimize men. Interwoven within this narrative, however, are stimulating accounts of instances where women occupied positions of political, moral, and maternal authority. Bret Hinsch has made a number of contributions to the history of gender and sexuality in China, primarily for the ancient and premodern eras. His latest book, Women in Ancient China, "details the process of growing sexual inequality as it unfolded" across the Neolithic, Shang, and Western and Eastern Zhou periods (seventh millennium to third century B.C.) (p. x). This work greatly expands upon Hinsch's summary of these periods in a chapter in his other recent book, Women in Imperial China (Hinsch 2016:1–32). It also serves as a welcome and long-awaited companion to his Women in Early Imperial China (2002), which covers the Qin and Han periods (third century B.C.–A.D. third century). Like many of his books, Women in Ancient China takes a chronological approach, which allows Hinsch to examine the various ways that a woman's identity and status were affected by the shifting social, political, and institutional structures of each ruling power. Thus, each chapter is a comparative study that looks both back in time and anticipates future developments or changes. Drawing from multiple disciplinary perspectives, this useful and comprehensive study synthesizes the growing body of secondary scholarship on women's lives in ancient China. Hinsch's central thesis is that "growing institutional complexity affected female rights and privileges" (p. xii). The study details the various ways that gendered hierarchy became standardized with the expansion of a patriarchal governing system, relegating women to roles in which they invariably served to aid or help legitimize men. Interwoven within this narrative, however, are stimulating accounts of instances where women occupied positions of political, moral, and maternal authority. Bret Hinsch has made a number of contributions to the history of gender and sexuality in China, primarily for the ancient and premodern eras. His latest book, Women in Ancient China, "details the process of growing sexual inequality as it unfolded" across the Neolithic, Shang, and Western and Eastern Zhou periods (seventh millennium to third century B.C.) (p. x). This work greatly expands upon Hinsch's summary of these periods in a chapter in his other recent book, Women in Imperial China (Hinsch 2016:1–32). It also serves as a welcome and long-awaited companion to his Women in Early Imperial China (2002), which covers the Qin and Han periods (third century B.C.–A.D. third century). Like many of his books, Women in Ancient China takes a chronological approach, which allows Hinsch to examine the various ways that a woman's identity and status were affected by the shifting social, political, and institutional structures of each ruling power. Thus, each chapter is a comparative study that looks both back in time and anticipates future developments or changes. Drawing from multiple disciplinary perspectives, this useful and comprehensive study synthesizes the growing body of secondary scholarship on women's lives in ancient China. Hinsch's central thesis is that "growing institutional complexity affected female rights and privileges" (p. xii). The study details the various ways that gendered hierarchy became standardized with the expansion of a patriarchal governing system, relegating women to roles in which they invariably served to aid or help legitimize men. Interwoven within this narrative, however, are stimulating accounts of instances where women occupied positions of political, moral, and maternal authority.
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