No regrets, say the Chinese women who chose independence over marriage. The girls who took a lifelong vow of chastity are now in their 80s, the last survivors of a unique custom

Her mother carefully undid Liang Jieyun’s plaits, combed out the strands and pinned them into a bun. When her friends put up their hair, they wore the red clothing of brides. But as Liang left her girlhood behind and stepped across the family threshold, she was embarking on a lifelong commitment to remain single.

At 85, Liang is a rare survivor of a custom stretching back to the early 19th century in parts of southern Guangdong. Women here could vow to remain a “self-combed woman”, or zishunü, leaving their parents’ home to work without marrying. “If I hadn’t become a ‘self-combed woman’, the landlord would have forced me into marriage,” she said.

(Read the rest here)

90-year-old Huang Peirong, who is believed to be the oldest self-combed woman in Guangdong

90-year-old Huang Peirong, who is believed to be the oldest self-combed woman in Guangdong

I loved this piece, it was something I hadn’t heard about before. 

When I came across this article in The Guardian, I couldn’t believe that I had never heard about this tradition before. These are women who gave up the chance (which might not be a good one) of marriage in order to remain single and to work and support their families for their entire lives. While it sounds like a sacrifice, the piece in The Guardian shows that for many, given the era, it was a form of liberation. There are few such women alive still today and if you Google it, you will find some other articles but no Wikipedia page (which shows how unknown this tradition is, if you ask me!).


I had to share this with my fellow WMN organisers. It’s like a historical take on the having it all issue, of course, these women sacrificed having it all, really, in order to have more than they might if they married (because marriages then weren’t formed the way they commonly are now!).


Our ex Hong Kong Chapter President, Christina Pantin was excited by the article and shared this with us:


“What a touching article.


We were fortunate to have had during our childhood and into teenaged years an “amah” called “Lau Cher”, who was not single but was a widow who chose to have her 2 children raised by relatives in Penang while she was our live in housekeeper in KL. She sent money faithfully every month to support her children, and very sadly, they resented their mother for not raising them, and she spent her last days with them not being very loving to her after she left our family.


Lau Cher exemplified the women in the article – denying herself any comforts (she dressed in “black and white” amah uniform), and I remember going with her during her monthly trips downtown to send money to her children, when as a treat she would buy a wonton noodle lunch for herself and me.


How strong women are! It’s very encouraging to remember this!”

If you have any stories to share on topics like these, please get in touch!


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