People hadarticulated for successful women: she should balance her roles of lover, wife,concubine, and again the tragic heroine, though dead, comes through with totaldevotion. She has to take all the blames and stake her life in order to be successfuland heroic.TuShih-niang represents the difficulties of womanhood in Confucian China; she isa beautiful courtesan, among other things, the ubiquity of Confucian moralphilosophy and religion that governs even the conduct of prostitutes,marginalized by the patrilineal society (????); in other words, prostitutesalso have a problem of following the code of conduct for virtuous women; forthe heroine, she gives her whole-hearted dedication to her husband to show herredemption and womanhood, for which she would rather die as a chaste femalemartyr (??) rather than live disgraced and ashamed;Also, thisstory brings up the theme of “Cong Liang” (??), a prostitute becoming a goodwife. Normally, it is very difficult for prostitutes to re-enter into adomestic life.
The society doesn’t mind men’s sexual promiscuity while womenare held responsible for keeping female chastity; Tu Shih-niang is famous and wellliked by men as a sexual object but shunned as a source of scandal, whereinlies the dynamics of Cong Liang theme: a woman who is a prostitute byprofession can be a moral person to which extent.TuShih-niang, though a prostitute, comes out triumphant over scholar Li Chia, whowas born into wealth and privileged in education, goes down as a shamefulvillain who values money over loyalty. Shih-niang represents the eight coreConfucian values (of loyalty, filial piety, virtue, integrity, kindness, faith,courtesy, and wisdom (???????????????), while Li Chia and Sun Fu act on expedience and treat humanbeings like a means. One can say that Confucian humanism empowers a prostituteto rise above her mean conditions and to judge the men without moral scruples.In this game or battle of the sexes where the rules are often in favor of man, TuShih-niang outdoes Li Chia by sticking to her side of the bargain while thelatter fails to hold out his end, respect and cherish her as his wife.Sometimesthe logics in ethics also works as aesthetics enabling us to view moral acts asbeautiful, which is perhaps why the audience usually finds it touching when atthe end Tu Shih-niang commits suicide, an act of true love and of protestagainst her husband’s shameful abandonment; she is the figure of the sublimewhen she throws her treasures into the river, and throws herself into it; Li Chialoves both money and women, but at the end he loses both.
He deviates from theethical principles (?) in pursuit of profit (?) as in “gentleman mindsrighteousness while a mean person minds profit” (???????????); thisdrama of loyalty and betrayal perfectly illustrates this Confucian view of theworld as a moral universe.