(Clearwisdom.net) Ban Zhao, also known as Ban Huiban, was a historian and literary figure in the Eastern Han Dynasty of China (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.) In her 70s, she finished writing the first complete book in China about the etiquette standards for women, Nu Jie (or Women's Precepts). In the book, she explained the meaning of the Four Womanly Virtues - disposition, speech, form and skill. Her work has had an extremely profound and lasting influence in history.

In Women's Precepts, she pointed out that "being respectful, gentle and agreeable" is the most important rite and duty for a woman. Only when the mutual complementary factors of yin and yang between the husband and wife are respected can their relationship become harmonious and perfectly satisfactory.

She stated in Women's Precepts that the nature of yin and yang are different, and therefore man and woman's behavior should be different too. Yang is characterized by strength, and yin is characterized by delicacy. Therefore, while a man is honored for being strong and robust, a woman is considered beautiful for being gentle and delicate. That's why there is an old saying, "Having a son strong as a wolf, and yet one still fears he will be too weak; having a daughter shy as a mouse, and yet one still fears she will be too aggressive." Nothing is more important than being respectful in a woman's self-cultivation. Being gentle and agreeable is the key to not becoming too forceful and aggressive. Therefore being respectful, gentle and agreeable is the most important rite and duty for a woman.

Being respectful requires patience and persistence. Being gentle and agreeable requires tolerance. One who is respectful of others over a long period of time knows when to stop before going too far. One who is tolerant is good at being respectful and submissive.

If the husband and wife are overly intimate, and do not leave each other, but cling to each other under the same roof during their entire lives, then the longer this takes place, the easier it is for them to treat each other without proper respect. As soon as improper intimacy occurs, their speech will go beyond the proper limit. As soon as speech goes beyond proper limits, bold unrestraint will follow, and thoughts of insulting the husband will be bred. This is a result of failing to stop before going too far!

Actions can be right or wrong, and speech has merits and demerits. The woman who thinks she is right finds it impossible not to argue, and the person who is in the wrong finds it impossible not to defend himself. As soon as arguments and refutations take place, an angry mood will prevail. This is a result of failing to be respectful and submissive to the husband!

If a woman does not stop insulting her husband, then blame and scolding will follow. If the angry mood does not stop, then physical abuse will follow. As husband and wife, the couple should harmonize their relationship with mutual respect and goodwill, and cooperate well with mutual intimacy and love. With physical abuse, where are rite and duty? With blame and scolding, where is intimacy and love? Without love and observance of propriety, the husband and wife are not far from divorce.

First published in English at http://www.pureinsight.org/pi/index.php?news=3528