Crossing the Gate

Everyday Lives of Women in Song Fujian (960-1279)

By Man Xu

Subjects: Chinese Studies, Gender Studies, History
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9781438463209, 372 pages, July 2017
Hardcover : 9781438463216, 372 pages, December 2016

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Gates in and out of the Jia
The House Gate (Men 門) and Lane Gate (Lü閭)
The Middle Gate (Zhong Men 中門)
Gate Titles for Mothers

2. Women on Journeys

3. Women in Local Communities
Inner Affairs (Nei Shi 内事) and Outer Affairs (Wai Shi 外事)
Women and Household Economy
Women and Local Welfare
Women and Public Projects

4. Women and Local Governments
Women’s Participation in Local Administration
Women and Governmental Structures
Women and Lawsuits
Women Under the Administration of Local Governments
Gender Consideration in Local Governments’ Public Projects

5. Women and Religion
Laywomen in Confucian Eyes
Personal Practices
Religious Communication with Relatives and Outsiders
Religious Excursions
Buddhist Funeral

6. Women and Burial
Tomb Structure: From Single Chamber to Multichamber
Joint Burial: Partition Wall and Passageway
From Inner/Outer to Left/Right
The Problem of One Man, Many Wives
Funerary Accessories from Seven Multichamber Tombs
Three Late Southern Song Tombs
Mural Tombs


Appendix: Bibliography of Excavation Reports of Song Tombs from Fujian

Challenges the accepted wisdom about women and gender roles in medieval China.


In Crossing the Gate, Man Xu examines the lives of women in the Chinese province of Fujian during the Song dynasty. Tracking women's life experience across class lines, outside as well as inside the domestic realm, Xu challenges the accepted wisdom about women and gender roles in medieval China. She contextualizes women in a much broader physical space and social network, investigating the gaps between ideals and reality and examining women's own agency in gender construction. She argues that women's autonomy and mobility, conventionally attributed to Ming-Qing women of late imperial China, can be traced to the Song era. This thorough study of Song women's life experience connects women to the great political, economic, and social transitions of the time, and sheds light on the so-called "Song-Yuan-Ming transition" from the perspective of gender studies. By putting women at the center of analysis and by focusing on the local and the quotidian, Crossing the Gate offers a new and nuanced picture of the Song Confucian revival.

Man Xu is Assistant Professor of History at Tufts University.


"Xu's provocative study breaks new ground on gender studies in imperial China … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE