Innocent conspirators : an inquiry into the law of wives accompanying husbands in exile in the Qing legal system
Date of Issue2016
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The low legal and social status of women in Qing China, especially with the concept of “Three Obediences” (obey the father as a daughter, the husband as a wife, and her sons in widowhood), is compounded by the patriarchal “benevolence” towards women in the Qing legal system, who treated them as dependents. This could be seen in exile laws during the early part of the Qing period, where Confucian familism triumphed over Legalist strictness in a statutory provision obligating the criminal's wife to accompany him to exile. However, such laws were partially repealed due to factors such as arduousness of the journey for the woman and her uncertain future if her husband dies in exile and leaves her a widow among strangers. The repealing of such laws further reinforces the notion of patriarchal “benevolence” practised by the Qing government towards adult females. The conditions under which relatives, especially wives, of criminals sentenced to life exile did or did not accompany the convicts into exile were often complicated and unclear. What is clear, though, is that women under the Qing legal system were for the main part regarded as “minors” or nonpersons incapable of making their own decisions.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University