Women in China
with Dorothy Ko
Offered in partnership with Barnard College
Wednesday, October 30, 2019

In our exploration into the lives of women in pre-modern and contemporary China, we will focus on three topics: Confucianism, foot-binding, and livelihood. Our immersion in different time periods and cultures will help us see some of our own most cherished values—such as freedom, progress, happiness, and justice—in a new light. In the process of negotiating the distance in time, not to mention in geographical and cultural spaces, we may discover insights about who we are and who we want to be.

Dorothy Ko, a native of Hong Kong, is a professor of history at Barnard College. For three decades she has been teaching and writing about women in early modern China from the vantage points of poetry, fashion, technology, and craft. Her most recent book, The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China, focuses on an eighteenth-century female artisan who carved ink-grinding stones that became emblems of masculinity for scholars and collectors.




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Photos by Pat Swain.


“The day was inspiring, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to be a student again. It was a wonderful blend of deep thinking about the subject matter and exploring pedagogical approaches.”
Laura Honsberger, Riverdale Country School


Assigned readings:

Anon. The Ballad of Mùlán. translated by David K. Jordan, 2019.

Johnson, Kay Ann. “The 1950 Marriage Law.” In Women, the Family, and Peasant Revolution in China, 235–39. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Mann, Susan. “Preface.” In Gender and Sexuality in Modern Chinese History, 1–65. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Li, Yu. “The Male Mencius’ Mother.” In Silent Operas, translated by Patrick Hanan, 99–134. Renditions Paperbacks. Hong Kong: Research Centre for Translation, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1990.

Zhao, Ban. “Lessons for Women.” In Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture: Writings from the Pre-Qin Period Through the Song Dynasty, edited by Robin Wang, 177–88. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co, 2003.

Master Class Fellows