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10 July, 2018

Manning Up in Ancient China


One of many delightful pearls found inside the Zuo Zhuan, the oldest historical narrative in East Asia:
The younger sister of Xuwu Fan of Zheng was beautiful. You Chu had already formalized his engagement with her when Gongsun Hei sent someone who insisted on presenting her with a betrothal fowl. Alarmed, Xuwu Fan told Zichan. Zichan said, “This is because the domain lacks correct governing. It is not your worry. Go with whichever one you want.” 
Fan requested the two men to allow the girl to choose between them. Both consented. Gongsun Hei entered in elegant attire, laid out gifts of cloth, and exited. You Chu entered in military attire, shot arrows got the left and to the right, leaped into his chariot, and exited. 

Having watched from her bedchamber, the girl said, “Gongsun Hei is handsome, to be sure, but You Chu is manly. For the man to be manly and the wife wifely: that is what is fitting." She married into the family of You Chu.
Zuo Zhuan, Lord Zhao 1.7 [1]
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Things did not turn out too well for our ancient Chinese Chad. Shortly after this episode Gongsun Hei attacked You Chu in revenge. You Chu defended himself well, but the higher ranking and better connected Gongsun Hei was able to frame the altercation as insubordination. Zichan had You Chu exiled from Zheng. Whether he was able to take his new bride with him into exile the text does not say.

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[1] Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Lee, and David Schaberg, trans., Zuo Tradition, vol III (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016), 1317.

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