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The period 960 to 1400 covers a time of significant historical changes in China The Song Yuan and early Ming dynasties saw migration to the south the birth of a new elite in the educated class increased commercialisation a revival of the influence of Confucianism and in the very early years of the 12th century until 1368 invasion by a foreign force Despite such developments previous studies suggest that the basic institutions of property and marriage were not among these changes and remained fairly static Indeed for men whose rights have changed very little for centuries this was the case It is only when examining the rights of women with regards to property and marriage that the effects of the aforementioned changes become visible In 960 AD General Chao Kuang-yin founded the new Song dynasty at Kai-feng This is the starting point from which we will trace the change in womens rights which In 960 were those granted under the previous Tang dynasty The basic rules of inheritance were older and younger brothers receive equal portions and sons receive their fathers share When a father died each son received an equal share of his land on which to establish his own patriline Female property under traditional Confucian ideology was rendered insignificant in the division of household property The dowry a wife brought with her into the marriage remained the property of her and her husband The tradition of a dowry was an ancient one As both P Ebrey and J Holmgren confirm the institution of dowry turned marriage into a vital means of transmitting property Depending on the familys wealth a dowry could include fine materials clothes strings of cash precious metals jewellery and landholdings The richer a dowry a family could produce the richer a family their daughter could marry into At the beginning of the Song however a brides dowry although expected to be equal to the value of the grooms
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