Georgian Court hosts Deputy Consul General Meifang Zhang

(LAKEWOOD, NJ) April 16, 2014—The changing role of women in China has transformed over history from “three inches” to “half the sky,” Meifang Zhang, Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, told a crowd of students, faculty, and administrators at Georgian Court University on April 15.

Zhang was invited to Georgian Court as part of the university’s Global Education Program. In her introduction of Zhang, President Rosemary Jeffries, RSM, Ph.D., noted the importance of her visit in sharing the understanding of cultures.  “Our world will never have peace until we understand each other,” President Jeffries said.

Zhang_SummerhaysSpeaking before a standing-room-only crowd in the Casino Ballroom, Zhang spoke of the changing role of women through three stages of China’s history. In the first stage, “The Little Flower” (Imperial China), daughters were considered small flowers of the family, but also a burden. They were not given a formal name or status in the family, according to Zhang.

She described a woman’s fate through the story of the “Little Flower.” The fourth girl of the family, “Little Flower” was forbidden from going to school, set on a path of a future of illiteracy. By age 8, she was taught the skills of household chores, raising children, and weaving. As she aged, her feet grew too big. In China, the virtue of a good woman was small feet, Zhang noted. In order to obtain a good husband, the “Little Flower” was subjected the painful practice of foot binding (a custom in China during the period of 960-1912). At age 14, the “Little Flower” entered into a pre-arranged marriage, seeing her husband for the first time on her wedding night. Her husband treated her well and she gave birth to a boy. Her husband died two years later, and tragically, her son died two years after that. The “Little Flower” had to remain widowed for the rest of her life. The “Little Flower,” Zhang said, was a fictional character that illustrated the extreme, but very real, fate of many girls.

In the second stage, “Women’s Self Awakening” (1894-1949), women began to exert much more influential roles, Zhang said, due to China’s agriculture economy flourishing and Western ideologies taking hold. More women were being educated and women began to take on more important roles, particularly in the agricultural climate. They were becoming “women in the new era,” Zhang said.

In the third stage, “Women Can Hold Up Half the Sky” (1949-Present Day), the women’s role in society continued to develop gradually and ultimately laws were promulgated to protect women’s rights. For the first time in China’s history, women have equal rights in marriage and households. Women are now afforded in Zhang’s words, “free love,” and are no longer required to enter into arranged marriages. They are educated and have careers.

Zhang herself has an accomplished career, beginning as a translator and working in various high-level government positions in foreign affairs. Noting many opportunities for women in social/economic development, education, sciences, industries, and the arts, Zhang concluded, “A women’s future in China is bright.”

Story by Michelle Giles, GCU Grants & Communications Specialist; Photos by Phyllis Schiavone

(LAKEWOOD, NJ) April 16, 2014—The changing role of women in China has transformed over history from “three inches” to “half the sky,” Meifang Zhang, Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, told a crowd of students, faculty, and administrators at Georgian Court University on April 15.

Zhang was invited to Georgian Court as part of the university’s Global Education Program. In her introduction of Zhang, President Rosemary Jeffries, RSM, Ph.D., noted the importance of her visit in sharing the understanding of cultures.  “Our world will never have peace until we understand each other,” President Jeffries said.

Zhang_SummerhaysSpeaking before a standing-room-only crowd in the Casino Ballroom, Zhang spoke of the changing role of women through three stages of China’s history. In the first stage, “The Little Flower” (Imperial China), daughters were considered small flowers of the family, but also a burden. They were not given a formal name or status in the family, according to Zhang.

She described a woman’s fate through the story of the “Little Flower.” The fourth girl of the family, “Little Flower” was forbidden from going to school, set on a path of a future of illiteracy. By age 8, she was taught the skills of household chores, raising children, and weaving. As she aged, her feet grew too big. In China, the virtue of a good woman was small feet, Zhang noted. In order to obtain a good husband, the “Little Flower” was subjected the painful practice of foot binding (a custom in China during the period of 960-1912). At age 14, the “Little Flower” entered into a pre-arranged marriage, seeing her husband for the first time on her wedding night. Her husband treated her well and she gave birth to a boy. Her husband died two years later, and tragically, her son died two years after that. The “Little Flower” had to remain widowed for the rest of her life. The “Little Flower,” Zhang said, was a fictional character that illustrated the extreme, but very real, fate of many girls.

In the second stage, “Women’s Self Awakening” (1894-1949), women began to exert much more influential roles, Zhang said, due to China’s agriculture economy flourishing and Western ideologies taking hold. More women were being educated and women began to take on more important roles, particularly in the agricultural climate. They were becoming “women in the new era,” Zhang said.

In the third stage, “Women Can Hold Up Half the Sky” (1949-Present Day), the women’s role in society continued to develop gradually and ultimately laws were promulgated to protect women’s rights. For the first time in China’s history, women have equal rights in marriage and households. Women are now afforded in Zhang’s words, “free love,” and are no longer required to enter into arranged marriages. They are educated and have careers.

Zhang herself has an accomplished career, beginning as a translator and working in various high-level government positions in foreign affairs. Noting many opportunities for women in social/economic development, education, sciences, industries, and the arts, Zhang concluded, “A women’s future in China is bright.”

Story by Michelle Giles, GCU Grants & Communications Specialist; Photos by Phyllis Schiavone

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