A Discussion on "Marriage" - Part 2

A Husband has his obligations and a wife has his virtues

Ancient Chinese people believed that "marriage" was a combination of morality and obligation including "grace, obligation, affection and love." Marriage is a lifelong contract in which the husband and wife put their trust in each other. Ancient Chinese people claimed that the husband was obligated to show "grace, affection, and morality," while the wife should demonstrate virtues such as "propriety in behaviour, speech, demeanour and employment."

What is the meaning behind a "husband's obligations"? It is that the husband should fulfil his moral obligations. The Chinese word "Fu" (husband) literally means "support." The man is the mainstay of a family. All members of the family rely on him. He has responsibilities to his parents, wife and children, and he has moral obligations to both family and society.

Since ancient times, there has been a saying: "One hundred years' indebtedness tie a husband and wife together even if they are together for only one night." Master Li Hongzhi said in "Teaching the Fa at the Meeting with Asia-Pacific Students":

"'When you're nice to me I'm happy, and when you're no longer nice to me the feeling is gone.' Then how could you count on that thing? Could emotional ties sustain a marriage? With human beings there's not just moral obligation involved, but also, between man and wife, you are indebted to each other. So in terms of the woman, when she has put her whole life in your hands, the man should realise, 'This woman has entrusted her whole life to me. I have to be responsible for her.'"

Since the Zhou Dynasty, China has valued women's four virtues: "Propriety in behaviour, speech, demeanour and employment." These four virtues were first seen in Neizhai, Tianguan (Heavenly Ministry), Zhouli (Rites of Zhou) and were the four characteristics an outstanding woman should have. "Lienuzhuan" (Biographies of Outstanding Women) in Houhanshu (The Book of the Later Han Dynasty) said:

"Now what is called womanly virtue need not be brilliant ability, exceptionally different from others. Womanly words need be neither clever in debate nor keen in conversation. Womanly appearance requires neither a pretty nor a perfect face and form. Womanly work need not be work done more skillfully than that of others.

"To guard carefully her chastity; to control circumspectly her behaviour; in every motion to exhibit modesty; and to model each act on the best usage, this is womanly virtue. To choose her words with care; to avoid vulgar language; to speak at appropriate times; and nor to weary others with much conversation, may be called the characteristics of womanly words. To wash and scrub filth away; to keep clothes and ornaments fresh and clean; to wash the head and bathe the body regularly, and to keep the person free from disgraceful filth, may be called the characteristics of womanly bearing. With whole-hearted devotion to sew and to weave; to love not gossip and silly laughter; in cleanliness and order to prepare the wine and food for serving guests, may be called the characteristics of womanly work.

These four qualifications characterise the greatest virtue of a woman. No woman can afford to be without them."

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