Montesquieu

There are coun­tries where a law­ful wife enjoys in the house about the same honors as a sin­gle wife has in our part of the world ; there, the concu­bi­nes’ chil­dren are assu­med to belong to the first wife. That is how it works in China. Filial res­pect1 and the cere­mony of a deep mour­ning are not owed to the natu­ral mother, but to this mother who gives the law.

Aided by such a fic­tion,2 there are no lon­ger any bas­tard chil­dren ; and in coun­tries where this fic­tion does not obtain, it is clear that the law that legi­ti­ma­tes the concu­bi­nes’ chil­dren is a for­ced law : for it would be most of the nation that would be stig­ma­ti­zed by the law. Nor is it a mat­ter in these coun­tries of chil­dren of adul­tery. The sepa­ra­tions of wives, the enclo­sure, the eunuchs, the bolts, make the thing so dif­fi­cult that the law jud­ges it impos­si­ble. Moreover, the same sword would exter­mi­nate the mother and the child.

Father du Halde, vol. II, p. 124.

Women are divided into large and small, legitimate or not ; but there is no similar distinction among the children. That is the great doctrine of the empire ; it is said in a great Chinese work on morality translated by the same Father Du Halde, p. 140.