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The Sage and the Second Sex: Confucianism, Ethics, and Gender   Chenyang Li

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0-8126-9419-8 $24.95        paper
300 pages
(June 2000)
$54.95       cloth
300 pages
(June 2000)

The Sage and the Second Sex
Confucianism, Ethics, and Gender

Chenyang Li

In The Sage and the Second Sex, Chenyang Li brings together a collection of essays that investigate the common conception that Confucianism is a religion that devalues and oppresses the female sex, and instead demonstrates that the reality is far more complicated. Drawing upon the thought of scholars in many different fields including history, literature, religious studies, philosophy, and Asian studies, this collection explores Confucianism's attitude toward women and explores the possibility of a common ground.

While the Confucian view of women in ancient times was generally repressive, this collection provides a more complete picture of women in Confucian China, revealing that they were far from being passive victims but actually made positive contributions to the moral and social growth of Chinese civilization. The author examines convergences as well as divergences between Confucian and feminist thinking, shedding new light not only on the lives of women in ancient China, but also on the philosophical connections between Confucian and feminist ethical thinking and the possibilities for women in China today.

CONTRIBUTORS: Roger Ames, Patricia Ebrey, Paul Rakita Goldin, David Hall, Philip Ivanhoe, Joel Kupperman, Pauline Lee, Chenyang Li, Lisa Raphals, Ingrid Shafer, Michael Nylan, and Sandra Warwrytko.

"The only thing better than the title of the book is its contents. Chenyang Li has assembled a brilliant cast of characters within the covers of The Sage and the Second Sex to address the complex, long, misunderstood, and tortured relationship of the Confucian tradition with the women of East Asia. The various chapters show how women lived with and modified the nature of Confucianism over the long centuries of the imperial era. This is also the most intense and competent set of intellectual engagements between Confucian thought and practice and the global feminist movement to be found anywhere. When you finish reading, all you hope for is that there will be a second volume that will continue the debate between the Sage and the feminist movement into contemporary times. A must for anyone who takes the changing roles of women seriously within the context of the emerging global city."
—John Berthrong
Boston University School of Theology

"Timely and stimulating, these essays take on the dual challenge of restoring women to Chinese history and examining Confucianism in light of feminist interests. The authors offer a variety of approaches and interpretations without insisting on any final agreement. One message is clear, however: feminist concerns will reshape how Chinese history and philosophy are understood in the twenty-first century."
—Anne Birdwhistell
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

"A number of people believe that 'third wave' feminism is little more than a requiem for the principled militancy that preceded it, and even more people have long ago consigned the Confucian persuasion to the dustbin of history. The essays in this fine anthology effectively refute both claims, and make an original contribution to revitalizing the discipline of philosophy.

Not only do feminist and Confucian thought come alive in these pages, but different interpretations of both are offered as well: by no means do all of the authors agree on what feminism or Confucianism is, or should be, about. Consequently readers of this volume will be forced to rethink, not once, but many times, what they believe it is to be a human being, and how human beings may come together more peaceably in the twenty-first century than they did in the twentieth."
—Henry Rosemont, Jr.
St. Mary's College of Maryland


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