Ban Zhao, also known as Ban Huiban, was a historian and literary figure in Eastern Han Dynasty of China (206 B.C. – 220 A.D). In her 70's, she finished writing the first complete book in China about the etiquette standards for women, Nu Jie (Women’s Precepts). In the book, she explained the meaning of Four Womanly Virtues – disposition, speech, form and skill. Her work has had an extremely profound and lasting influence in history.
In the book, she pointed out that “being respectful, gentle and agreeable” is the most important rite and duty for a woman. Only with mutual complements like yin and yang and mutual respect between the husband and wife, can their relationship become harmonious and perfectly satisfactory.
She stated in Women’s Precepts that, the characters of yin and yang are different, and therefore man and woman’s behaviour should be different too. Yang is characterised with strength, and yin is symbolised with delicacy. Therefore, while a man is honoured for being strong and healthy, a woman is considered beautiful for being gentle and delicate. That’s why there is an old saying, “Having a son strong as a wolf, and yet one still fears him to be too weak; having a daughter shy as a mouse, and yet one still fears her to be too ferocious.” Nothing is more important than being respectful in a woman’s self-cultivation. Being gentle and agreeable is the key not to become too strong and aggressive. Therefore being respectful, gentle and agreeable is the most important rite and duty for a woman.
Being respectful only requires patience and persistence. Being gentle and agreeable only require tolerance. One who is respectful to others over a long period of time knows when to stop before going too far. One who is tolerant is good at being respectful and submissive.
If the husband and wife are overly intimate, and do not leave each other but circle under each other under the same roof during their entire life, then the longer it is, the easier it is for them to treat each other without proper respect. As soon as improper intimacy happens, speech will go beyond the proper limit. As soon as speech goes off the limit, bold unrestraint will happen, and thoughts of insulting the husband will be bred. This is a result of failing to stop before going too far!
Matters have rights and wrongs, and speeches have merits and demerits. The person who thinks she is right finds it impossible not to argue, and the person who is in the wrong finds it impossible not to defend himself. As soon as arguments and refutations take place, an angry mood will enter. This is a result of failing to be respectful and submissive to the husband!
If one does not stop insulting her husband, then blame and scolding will follow. If the angry mood does not stop, then shouting and hitting will follow. As husband and wife, the couple should harmonise the relationship with mutual respect and goodwill, cooperate well with mutual intimacy and love. With shouting and hitting, where is rite and duty? With blame and scolding, where is intimacy and love? Without rite and love, the husband and wife are not far from divorce.
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