The article “Gender and Society,” written by C. Julia Huang, Elena Valussi, and David A. Palmer, in the volume Chinese Religious Life (Oxford University Press, 2011), discusses some of the gender-specific dimensions of religious traditions in Chinese culture. The authors explain the subtle influence of religious ideas and practices on the roles of men and women in public life and illustrate how masculine role and feminine role evolved. Is Chinese religion all about ancestral worship dominated by males? Can Chinese women find their place in religion? Please read the article to learn more about it.

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C. Julia Huang: Patrilineality and gender

We can observe both gender roles of male and female in the popular religion in China, and yet, Chinese society is clearly a patrilineal one that upholds distinct Confucian values. Sons are more valued in partilineal ancestor worship, since they fulfill ancestral obligations by continuing the family line. Women should take up the responsibility of domestic chores, and men are supposed to dominate the public sphere. C. Julia Huang briefly illustrates the Chinese patrilineal society, and she believes that the lines of gender are still salient.

C. Julia Huang: Nei-wai and gender roles in Chinese culture

The line of gender still exists in Chinese societies nowadays, which can be described by the Chinese term nei-wai 內外 — literally, internal (nei) and external (wai). The external is dominated by male or husband who has the duty to work hard and support the family; the internal is the living space where female or wife should stay, handling domestic chore and taking care of child. Please watch the clip to learn more about it.

C. Julia Huang: Tzu Chi as a women’s movement

C. Julia Huang, the author of the book Charisma and Charisma, has studied the Tzu Chi movement in Taiwan for years. The majority of Tzu Chi practitioners are women. Huang mentions a unique perspective of claiming the Tzu Chi as a women’s movement that empowers women in the Chinese world. She believes, “religion can provide an arena for women to address issues, and also show their power in public world.”

C. Julia Huang: The power of sisterhood in religion

In one Tzu Chi gathering, as Huang recalls, the crowd in the hall produced a strong voice of women, “to love the supreme person 愛上人”; and the “supreme person” is Master Cheng Yen, the well respected nun and leader of Tzu Chi. Huang explains the relations between women and Tzu Chi, and describes why and how women engage in religion. Behold, the power of sisterhood. Please watch.