Hulian Zhang

Confucianism as a “women-eating religion”? – marriage and reproduction, single women on the margin


Confucianism organized the society on the principle of patriarchy power where women’s subordination has been regulated by the solid phalanx of King, Father, and Husband (Chiung Tzu Lucetta Tsai, 2006). It sees marriage and reproduction as important milestones towards fulfilling human nature, women are expected to perform their roles well as daughter, mother, and wife at appropriate ages in her lifetime. Deviation from this traditional socio-cultural expectation often exposes women to further marginalization, repression, and stigmatization. In this paper, drawing on existing literatures, I explore how single women are perceived under the Confucianism values, socio-cultural expectations of marriage and reproduction that have imposed upon them, and how these shaped the current Hong Kong law’s approach to single women’s access to fertility treatment by adding marriage as an eligibility criteria. I also look at this issue through a time & space lens of today’s society where women who remain single after their late 20s are often depreciated of their value as a person and stigmatised as “leftovers”. I argue that the Confucian female ideal is still impacting and modelling women’s lives, limiting women’s potentials in choosing a lifestyle that she desires. This paper also draws on feminist reconceptualization of autonomy – relational autonomy which thinks that autonomy is also shaped by the relations with others, in contrast to the traditional atomistic individualism interpretation. I argue that respecting women’s autonomy becomes particularly important in this era in enabling women to have the opportunity to develop their full personhood and potentials.

Chiung Tzu Lucetta Tsai, ‘The Influence of Confucianism on Women’s Leisure in Taiwan’ (2006) 25 Leisure Studies 469.

Confucianism, single women, marriage, reproduction, Chinese society, autonomy


I am a PhD candidate from Newcastle Law School, specialising in Medical Ethics and Law. My PhD research focuses on single women’s access to assisted reproductive technology (ART) in Hong Kong. I approach this issue from the perspective of reproductive autonomy. I draw on feminist lenses to look at Hong Kong’s legal restrictions on single women’s fertility in ART setting.
Before joining the Newcastle Law School, I attended the:
Southwest University of Political Science and Law (LLB)
University of Kent (DL)
University of Hong Kong (MCL)

I have internship experience with the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and the High Court of Hong Kong SAR. I was shortly with Baker & McKenzie’s Hong Kong office.