Also spelled taitai, tai-tai, or taai taai.
Tai tai (太太) is a Chinese colloquial term for an elected leader-wife or head-wife of a multi-wife (polygynous / sister-wife) family; or a wealthy married woman who does not work. It is the same as the Cantonese title for a married woman. It has the same euphemistic value as "lady" in English: sometimes flattery, sometimes subtle insult. One author describes it as equivalent to the English term "ladies who lunch".
By the time of the May Fourth Movement in 1919, the term had come to imply a wife who was "dependent on her newly rising bourgeois husband" for her consumerist lifestyle, and Chinese feminists and "new women" of that era tried to disassociate themselves from the term precisely for that reason.
The term has become well-known, and features in Western discussions in the field of Women's studies. It originally referred to the wife of highest status in a polygamous marriage, many would like to believe this meaning has fallen away and that it now refers simply to a privileged, wealthy lady, this however is incorrect and the usage referring to the 'lead wife' continues, especially when the other women are concubines. Pearl Buck uses the term to describe Madame Liang in her novel, Three Daughters of Madame Liang.
- Wang Zheng (1999). Women in the Chinese Enlightenment. University of California Press. p. 20.
- Sylvie Phillips (2005). Tai Tai Tales. Bangkok Books. ISBN 974-93100-3-9.
- Price, Fiona L. (2007). Success with Asian Names: A Practical Guide for Business and Everyday life. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ISBN 1-85788-378-0.
- Kain, Elizabeth (6 August 2008). "Are you a Tai Tai?". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- Radosh, Alice; Maglin, Nan Bauer (2003). Women confronting retirement: a nontraditional guide. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-3126-8.
- Buck, Three Daughters of Madame Liang. London: Moyer Bell, 1969.
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