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The Professional Women in the Ming and Qing Dynasty: Midwives and Coroners

Posted By admin On 10:18 AM In Past Events 2018-19 | Comments Disabled

2018/2019 School of Chinese Research Student Seminar

The Professional Women in the Ming and Qing Dynasty: Midwives and Coroners

顧玥 Gu Yue

December 14, 2018 (Friday): 5:30-6:45pm
Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus
Language: Putonghua


Midwives played an important role during the process of childbirth for females in ancient China. Different from their images of quack doctor who sought nothing but profit that have been portrayed in public novels in the Ming and Qing Dynasty, under the lenses of social medical history, midwives cannot be easily replaced due to the fact that they were professionals in the real society. Besides the duties of children delivery and inducing abortions that have been widely known, midwives’ duties of inquest have been seldom mentioned. Due to the influence of traditional moral values, especially the feudalist notion of virginity, the roles played by midwives as female examiners gradually developed during the Ming and Qing Dynasty. Their duties not only included examining maidenhead, distinguishing sex, and selecting wet nurses for the palace, but they were also officially employed by the government. Midwives examined female corpses, and they played the role of coroner when criminal cases happen. With the development of this duty, midwives who worked for government gradually distinguished themselves from other midwives who only delivered babies, and forming an independent group. This talk will focus on this group of professional women in ancient China from a multi-dimensional perspective.


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