Women's Roles During the Han Empire
Wife and Mother
- During the Han Dynasty, women did not have many rights. They were expected to serve their husbands and family without complaint. Politics did not concern women. A majority of the women of the Han Dynasty raised children and remained submissive. They were expected to do their work while always remaining cheerful. Women that were wives and mothers were often uneducated, and were not allowed to make any decisions except when it came to the raising of children.
- Just like any society in history, the Han Dynasty was not without society women. These women were married to successful men or came from successful families. They were looked upon as examples of what an average woman should be -- an ideal mother and wife. The noblewomen of the Han Dynasty enjoyed fashionable clothing, music and food and were not unlike society women of today.
- For every Emperor, there must be an Empress Dowager. While it was typical for an Emperor to marry many women, only one was deemed Empress Dowager. During the rule of Liu Bang, Lu Zhi was named Empress Dowager. Liu Bang was often away from their new capital of Chang'an and designated Lu Zhi and their son to make decisions regarding Chang'an and the surrounding areas. During her time as acting ruler, Lu Zhi was seen as a brutal leader, ordering torture and executions of men.
- Concubines were not a negative term in the Han Dynasty. Concubines were women that Emperors married. However, since there could be only one Empress Dowager, concubines were the next step down in the hierarchy. Although concubines were considered a normal part of the hierarchy, not all were appreciated. Empress Dowager Lu Zhi was particularly brutal toward Lady Qi, a concubine that bore the Emperor a son.
- While women were typically submissive during the Han Dynasty, some women helped make political decisions. Before Liu Bang became Emperor, he encountered a woman known as Lady Sima. She was well educated with a military background. Liu Bang admired her knowledge and while records do not show that he sought her opinion on missions or decisions, it is known that he rewarded her with gold and jade after seeing her work.