Exemplary Women in Wei and Jin Dynasties-Vanguard of Feminism
Riots occurred frequently at the end of Han Dynasty. The traditional social morals were challenged, which greatly liberated people's minds. Scholars and talents such as Kong Rong, Yang Xiu and Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove emerged, so did the new women with self-confidence and self-respect who did not constrain to "the three obediences and four virtues" in Wei and Jin Dynasties.
Confucius once said he did not see as many people who seek for virtues as those who seek for beauty. Even Zhuge Liang with noble character would feel displeased to be married to an ugly woman. Some women in Wei and Jin Dynasties with wits instead of natural beauty could defeat the men through arguments to prop up the ego. Shi Shuo Xin Yu-Xianyuan (Essays and Criticism -Exemplary Women) writes that, "Xu Yun's wife seized lappet of her husband."-Xu Yun married to Ruan Weiwei's daughter who was very ugly. After the wedding ceremony, Xu Yun did not want to return to the bridal chamber. Taking the advice of the guest, he finally returned to the bridal chamber, yet wanted to leave again after he saw his bride. The bride held the lappet of him to ask him to stay. Xu Yun asked, "Women should have four virtues and what virtues do you have?" She answered, "What I lack is only beautiful appearance. The scholars should have various good conducts and how about you?" He answered he had all the good qualities. The bride said, "Morality is of first importance among various good conducts, yet you love beauty more than morality, how can you say you possess all the good qualities!" Xu Yun was ashamed and the couples respected each other from then on. Xu Yun's wife compelled submission by kindness. Because of her virtues, she could educate her son and survived after Xu Yun was killed by the emperor.
Women in Wei and Jin Dynasties
Another story is "The daughter of Zhuge Dan's response to her husband"-Wang Gongyuan (also called Wang Guang) married to the daughter of Zhuge Dan. When they entered the bridal chamber, they started to talk. Wang told his wife that she had humble looks, unlike her father. His wife said sarcastically, "You do not act like your father, either; he is a real man with noble quality."
There are not only stories of fault-finders of men on wife, but also women on husband. For example, "Madam Xie looked down upon Wang Ningzhi"- After Xie Daoyun, the daughter of general Xie Yi of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, niece of Xie An (the prime minister) and the sister of famous general Xie Xuan, married to Wang Ningzhi, the second son of Wang Xizhi, she was very displeased. Xie An asked her for the reason, she answered, "In our family of Xie, there are great personages like uncles Xie Shang and Xie Ju, there are also talents like cousins Feng (Xie Shao), Hu (Xie Lang), Jie (Xie Xuan) and Mo (Xie Yuan). Wang is so far away from my expectations." The daughter of a famous family valued much about moral quality and talents and expressed her dissatisfaction with her husband. So the descendants use "Tian Rang Wang Lang" (There are so many differences between Wang and my families.) to refer to an undesirable husband.
A nun named Jini once commented that, "Mrs. Wang (Xie Daoyun) has elegant demeanor and temperament of a hermit; the daughter-in-law of Gu (Zhang Xuanmei) is kind and pure, outstanding among women." From her words, she obviously held in esteem the talented lady Xie Daoyun. The fact that such stories were passed down over generations shows that people did not judge women only by their appearance. Men were also enamored of the wits and eloquence of the worthy women in spite of feeling ashamed in Wei and Jin Dynasties. No wonder Neo-Confucianist aftertime held "a woman without talent is virtuous." Perhaps they were just afraid of the embarrassing situations where men were tongue-tied.