This story will provide a critical analysis of the Chinese short story "The Lady Who Was A Beggar," from the twelfth or thirteenth century. The analysis will include consideration of the cultural significance of the story. Essentially, the study will argue that the story was a stern warning, on both moral and practical grounds, against class prejudice as practiced by two characters in the tale.
The cultural significance of the story shows the reader that the Chinese society of seven hundred years ago was like our own in terms of the prevalence of such prejudice, and also like our own in that wise story-tellers warned about the destructive and self-destructive nature of such bias. It also tells us that art in that era, as far as that art is represented by this story, was created not merely as entertainment but as a means of instructing the populace in moral behavior.
"The Lady Who Was A Beggar" is actually two stories. The first story is about a biased wife who leaves her husband because she believes he will never amount to anything socially or economically. She believes this because he has reached the age of 43 and still makes a living carrying firewood, even though he applies himself---even while carrying that firewood---to arduous studies of classical works. He believes in himself and is patient with respect to success on a worldly level.
His wife, however, is not only impatient but also profoundly ashamed of him, especially when she sees children mocking him as he totes his firewood and studies simultaneously. She contemptuously asks to be released from the marriage, and he regretfully grants her request.
Fortune visits the man, and he is soon in a position of power and prominence, serving the Emperor. His diligent studies and patience have paid off for him, but too late to satisfy his wife.
In the meantime, his wife has married another man, who is even worse off than her first husband---that is, her first hus...