The Aesthetics of the Three Obediences: Murasaki Shikibu and Asian Women's Responses to the Code of Feminine Conduct

  • Author / Creator
    Masumitsu, Kazuko
  • Abstract All the three ancient sacred scriptures of Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, the Laws of Manu, the Lotus Sutra and the Book of Rites, demonstrate that the three obediences were once the prescribed code of woman’s conduct for South and East Asian women, as follows: Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence. (The Laws of Manu Ch. IX. 3) 1 A woman obeys her parents in childhood, her husband in marriage and her son in widowhood, and she remains chaste. (listed in Buddhist sutras including Lotus Sutra, qtd. in Mochizuki Buddhist Great Dictionary 望月仏教大辞典 1542-1543) The wife should follow and obey her husband. The woman obeys her father in childhood, her husband in marriage and her son in old age.2 (The Book of Rites 礼記) The woman is bound by the three obediences.3 (Ch. “Blue Trousers 藤袴.” The Genji Vol. 3. 328) These ancient Chinese and Indian manuscripts indicate that their women were expected to observe the three obediences. The three obediences, written in Chinese as 三従 and pronounced as sanjyū in Japanese and sankon in Chinese, 1 In the English translation of the Laws of Manu by George Bühler. All the additional phrases in parentheses are listed. 2 My translation. 3 My translation. were once a familiar phrase in East Asia, including Korea and Vietnam. The presence of the same code of women’s conduct in the Tale of Genji also implies that the author, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote her work during the period when Japanese noblewomen were equally bound by that code. This recognition is the major inspiration for the first exploratory study of Pan-Asian womanhood under the three obediences within the field of comparative literature. This dissertation will trace back the development, evolution and effect of the three obediences on womanhood in India, China and Japan; then, it will re-read the Tale of Genji in the frame of the three obediences.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Sayed, Asma (Comparatve Literature)
    • Lin, Jenn-Shann (East Asian Studies)
    • Commons, Anne (East Asian Studies)
    • Laffin, Christina (Asian Studies) University of British Columbia
    • Verdicchio, Massimo (Comparative Literature, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)