Hung H. Nguyen, Nghia M. Vo
Kiều's Karma
         Confucianism envisioned a patriarchal society in which subjects lived by moral example: if the king were virtuous, everyone under the sun would submit to him. This strange precept, which defied any logic, turned out to be generally true and Confucian principles would rule over China and East Asia for the next two millennia, albeit supported by a strong military backup. However, had it not been backed up by a strong military presence, Confucianism, who knows, might not have been that prevalent in Asia

         Under the Confucian system, household heads-read men-ruled over their tiny empires and women were expected to toe the line. The latter were supposed to strictly follow the Tam Tồng Tứ Đức or Three Submissions and Four Virtues and any deviation from these rules was forcefully censured by society. The three submissions dictated that a woman should obey her father when single, her husband when married, and her eldest son during widowhood. The four Virtues include công, dung, ngôn, hạnh: she must know cooking and sewing (công), be presentable (dung), have a reserved and polite attitude (ngôn) and be honest and faithful (hạnh). These precepts, however, led women to be submissive. In the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, women who were caught having an affair in North Vietnam were either tied to a raft which was left to drift down a river or sentenced to be trampled by elephants in South Vietnam. Adhering to the rules thus could land women in uncharted territories from which they could not get out. Trapped in unusual circumstances, they felt cornered and became fatalistic about their role in society. And no one knows the real burdens these rules had inflicted on these women.

        Please read the rest of the story in THE LANDS OF FREEDOM.
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