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My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard

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-Preface_.A writer on things Chinese was asked why one found so little writingupon the subject of the women of China. He stopped, looked puzzledfor a moment, then said, "The woman of China! One never hears aboutthem. I believe no one ever thinks about them, except perhaps thatthey are the mothers of the Chinese men!"Such is the usual attitude taken in regard to the woman of the floweryRepublic. She is practically unknown, she hides herself behind herhusband and her sons, yet, because of that filial piety, that almostreligious veneration in which all men of Eastern races hold theirparents, she really exerts an untold influence upon the deeds of themen of her race.Less is known about Chinese women than about any other women ofOriental lands. Their home life is a sealed book to the average personvisiting China. Books about China deal mainly with the lower-classChinese, as it is chiefly with that class that the average visitor ormissionary comes into contact. The tourists see only the cooliewoman bearing burdens in the street, trotting along with a couple ofheavy baskets swung from her shoulders, or they stop to stare at theneatly dressed mothers sitting on their low stools in the narrowalleyways, patching clothing or fondling their children. They see andhear the boat-women, the women who have the most freedom of anyin all China, as they weave their sampans in and out of the crowdedtraffic on the canals. These same tourists visit the tea-houses andsee the gaily dressed "sing-song" girls, or catch a glimpse of agaudily painted face, as a lady is hurried along in her sedan-chair,carried on the shoulders of her chanting bearers. But the real Chinesewoman, with her hopes, her fears, her romances, her children, and herreligion, is still undiscovered.I hope that this book, based on letters shown me many years afterthey were written, will give a faint idea of the life of a Chinese lady.The story is told in two series of letters conceived to be written byKwei-li, the wife of a very high Chinese official, to her husband whenhe accompanied his master, Prince Chung, on his trip around theworld.She was the daughter of a viceroy of Chih-li, a man most advanced forhis time, who was one of the forerunners of the present educationalmovement in China, a movement which has caused her youth to riseand demand Western methods and Western enterprise in place of theobsolete traditions and customs of their ancestors. To show his beliefin the new spirit that was breaking over his country, he educated hisdaughter along with his sons. She was given as tutor Ling-Wing-pu, afamous poet of his province, who doubtless taught her the imageryand beauty of expression which is so truly Eastern.Within the beautiful ancestral home of her husband, high on themountains-side outside of the city of Su-Chau, she lived the quite,sequestered life of the high-class Chinese woman, attending to thehousehold duties, which are not light in these patriarchal homes,where an incredible number of people live under the same rooftree....