The Chinese Way of Life in the 19th Century

A Daughter of Han written by Ida Pruitt revealed what life was like for a Chinese woman In the 19th century. It allowed us to follow an ordinary womans life story during the end of the Qing Dynasty. Our main character, Ning Lao Tal’tal. lived a full and difficult life, In her time, she gave birth and buried children, she worked as a maid, she begged for money and food to raise her children, she sold her daughter for she could not afford to feed her, and she felt fortunate for being able to age With her family close to her.

As the story unfolded, we learned more about the culture and the traditions at the time from Ning Lao Tai—tais view. She believed in heaven and the destiny heaven had chosen for her. She obeyed her parents for it was the uprightness of a good woman. She spent her whole life trying to provide for her family and keep them close together.

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She had grown from a young woman who knew nothing about making a living to an independent Woman who bound her family together. In this book, Pruitt was able to show us a traditional view of womens role in the Chinese society. According to the tradition, a good daughter is to obey her parents, When she gets married. she is to follow her husband, bare children, and wait for her husband to support her. For Ning, life was Circumstantial and a matter of destiny. She graciously accepted the life she had been handed and tried her best to do what heaven had chosen for her as a daughter.

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a Wife, and a mother. She did what was seemly for a woman to do and what was not seemly. She believed that whatever ones destiny, one must learn to live With It. Her life reflected a great deal of womanhood in traditional China.

In the 19th century. women were not sent to school to be educated. Instead, they were taught how to be a wife, for women Were normally married off around the age of fifteen, Daughters are thought to be Water poured on the ground that does not return. Ning often wondered, If I had been allowed to go to school how different my lile would have been. I might have been somebody in the world. Knowing a womans role In the society, she honored her parents decision and married the man they had arranged for her Although her husband had sold her possession and her daughter, she still felt that she could not betray her husband, A statement at the beginning of the book revealed her belief in prerdestiny In which she says, Within the common destiny is the IndiVIdual destiny. That destiny is fixed by heaven, by the stars In their course, Only as one lives does the pattern of ones life show forth. It is essential to recognize the importance of the family throughout the Chinese culture. From the book, we learned that Ning spent her lifetime trying to remain close to her children and grandchildren. It was a great pride for the elders to see her children and grandchildren growing up and doing Well. The family value weighed more than anything. We see that Ning had given up many opportunities and good offers, because she had to care for her family and could not leave them behind. She wanted to make the best of her daughters life, so she arranged her marriage With a young man who was expected good fortune But It turned out that the sonrinrlaw was useless. Ning protected her daughter like a mother would and helped to raise her grandchildren. She had only Wished for the best for her daughter and she felt the sadness for her daughters marriage. Even though Nings family was poor, they were always close to her and she was thankful for heaven had given her a good family find that Ning, although she believes that her destiny had been set for her, had gained more control of her own life as she grew up, only she did not realize her future Was in her own hands.

At the beginning of the book, she repeatly stated that she was young and did not know enough even to beg. So she sat at home, starved while waiting for her husband to bring home money to Ieed her. But she turned from a young woman who thought that she knew nothing, to a workingwoman who served many families, while trying to raise her children, She was forced to go out of the court to be Independent and not rely on her husband. In the last part of the book, she had mentioned her husband but he was no longer a significant part In her life. She became an independent woman who could support her own children, She worked hard to give her children what they needed and hoped that they would have a better life than she did When her children had all grown and got married, she became the center of the family. She helped raising her grandchildren and she took great pride in watching her grandchildren growing up. She was the one that kept the family together through good and bad times. Also, the view on the issue of the arranged married changed dramatically between the three generations of the Nings family. Ning Lao Tairtai was raised in a society, which taught her that a woman should marry. it is the destiny of woman and her happiness to carry on the life stream. When she had fallen into a bad marriage, she thought, there is no need to be angry With my parents for my marriage. They did the best they could for me. She took what was handed to her and did not marry a second time. But when the daughters marriage failed. she blamed Ning for all the misfortunes of her life. After the daughter left the husband, she moved in with a man Without marrying him. This was a great dishonor for Ning, but this shows that the view on marriage had changed between the two generations. As of the third generation, Nirig tried to talk her granddaughter into marriage. but the girl refused to talk about it. She did not believe marriage was a priority in a womans life. As a matter of fact, she never did get married by the end of the book, In this book, we see three generations of Chinese women and their lives and destinies, Ning Lao Tairtai lived a difficult but full life. She has seen much in her time, she showed us the traditional thought and role of Chinese women and this gives us a sense of what life was like in the nineteenth century. I feel that the characters in the book do represent some aspect of Chinese thought and tradition, but does not reflect todays Chinese society. Today. women have gained many more rights and privileges and their roles have expanded beyond simply daughter, wife and mother. They are better educated and many are successful working-women. The Chinese women have truly changed.

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The Chinese Way of Life in the 19th Century. (2022, Jul 12). Retrieved from

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