Birth in Ancient China

A Study of Metaphor and Cultural Identity in Pre-Imperial China

Reddit icon
e-mail icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
LinkedIn icon
Constance A. Cook, Xinhui Luo
SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
  • Ithaca, NY: 
    State University of New York Press
    , November
     172 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Ying Zhou forthcoming.


Reveals cultural paradigms and historical prejudices regarding the role of birthing and women in the reproduction of society.

Using newly discovered and excavated texts, Constance A. Cook and Xinhui Luo systematically explore material culture, inscriptions, transmitted texts, and genealogies from BCE China to reconstruct the role of women in social reproduction in the ancient Chinese world. Applying paleographical, linguistic, and historical analyses, Cook and Luo discuss fertility rituals, birthing experiences, divine conceptions, divine births, and the overall influence of gendered supernatural agencies on the experience and outcome of birth. They unpack a cultural paradigm in which birth is not only a philosophical symbol of eternal return and renewal but also an abiding religious and social focus for lineage continuity. They also suggest that some of the mythical founder heroes traditionally assumed to be male may in fact have had female identities. Students of ancient history, particularly Chinese history, will find this book an essential complement to traditional historical narratives, while the exploration of ancient religious texts, many unknown in the West, provide

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Constance A. Cook is professor of Chinese at Lehigh University and the author of Death in Ancient China: The Tale of One Man’s Journey.

Xinhui Luo is professor of Chinese Ancient History at Beijing Normal University, China.


Reading Religion welcomes comments from AAR members, and you may leave a comment below by logging in with your AAR Member ID and password. Please read our policy on commenting.