ISSN: (Online) 2321 -4155
ISSN: (Print) 2320 -7000

VOLUME : 3, ISSUE : 4, October-December, 2015 (ISSN No. : 2321-4155)
The founding father of communist China, Mao Tse-tung is credited with heralding the gender equality in China. He used the ancient dictum of Woman can hold up half the sky (fù nu néng ding bàn bian tian , Ch. ???????) to emphasize that the women have an equal part to play in society. The opening of fissures in the Confucian mindset of patriarchy provided fertile ground for the Chinese women to take the strides to reach the high positions in business and politics of Asia.
Women dons the robe of business and financial leaders; political and spiritual leaders. But, hardly does one come across an authoritative female philosopher in Asia. It is not that the women get sufficient space in the Western world. Only a handful of female philosophers like Ayn Rand, Hannah Arendt, Simon de Beauvoir, Rosa Luxemburg, or the French school of l’Écriture feminine (Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva) can be listed in the annals of western philosophy. In contemporary Asia, only a few female philosophers are active- Vandana Shiva is one of them, though she may not be included as a “hard” philosopher.
The marginalization of women in the realm of abstract thinking appears only after the advent of the Great Religions. In the Vedas, names of 27 woman seers can be found. Ghosha, Lopa, Maitreyi, Gargi, Sulabha are seen debating with the leading male counterparts. Maitreyi, the wife of sage Yajnavalkya is known as a “brahmavadini” (Knower of the Brahma Vidya or the absolute knowledge). Gargi, the daughter of sage Vachaknu challenged Yajnavalkya during the “brahmayajna”in the court of Janaka. They ruminated over the nature of the universe and the origin of elements. They debated man, nature and consciousness. They were co-creators of the central tenets of the civilizational wisdom.
This was before the crystallization of Great Indic religions. Then came Buddhism. There were women of substance like Amrapali, Sumangala, Subha during Buddha’s time. But, Buddhism denigrated the women’s capacity for abiding wisdom.
The Buddhist bhikshunis(nuns) were reduced to composers of the songs of spiritual realization and the age of gender-biasing dawned. The Therigatha section of the Khuddaka Nikaya contains 522 stanzas of such compositions. But, very few women could emerge as thinkers. All the transmission lineages of East Asia or Tibet list man after man. Buddhism in Asia turned into an absolutely gender biased tradition with very limited opportunity for women to reincarnate as tulkus/ rinpoches or even to elevate herself in the role of khenpos(scholars).
In China, there were woman scholars like Ban Zhao(45C.-116 CE). She is also known in Chinese history as Huiban. She is credited with completing “The Book of Han”. She was an astronomer, a mathematician and a librarian at the Han Court. But, as Buddhism, a Great Religion started to exert influence over the Chinese court, hardly a female scholar could receive such prominence. During the Golden Age of the Chinese history when the Tang Dynasty was in power, again there is dearth of female scholars. Even though Wu Zetian (625-705A.D.) became the only female in Chinese history to rule as emperor, there is no trace of effervescence of female scholarship in her court. She is rather credited with elevating Buddhism over Taoism.