From the Publisher
Drawing on little-known Chinese documents and illustrations, noted historian D. E. Mungello describes the causes and continuation of female infanticide since 1650 despite efforts by Confucian moralists, Buddhist teachings, government officials, and even imperial edicts to stop the practice. The arrival of Christian missionaries led to foreign involvement as well, with Catholic priests baptizing abandoned and dying infants in Nanjing and Beijing beginning in the early 1600s. Mission efforts peaked in the nineteenth century when the European-based Society of the Holy Childhood urged Catholic children to contribute their pennies to help neglected children in China. However, most of the infant victims were drowned at birth in the privacy of their homes, thereby escaping the scrutiny of the law and the public.
Mungello brings this secretive practice to light with a nuanced and balanced analysis of the cultural, economic, and social causes of early infanticide and its contemporary manifestation in sex-selected abortion as a result of the government's one-child policy. Presenting female infanticide as a human rather than a distinctly Chinese problem, he estimates the tragic loss of girls in the millions.