There once a Mrs. Dang, formerly Ms. Niu in the Dang village 党家村. Her husband went to the capital to attend the national examinations, but died before he entered the examination halls. Mrs. remained a virtuous widow for 52 years, until she died.
When the emperor heard about her story, he made her dead husband an official and commemorated her virtue by establishing a stele in her honor in her village. It is called a 節孝碑. similar to a 旌節牌坊.
On the one hand, it is an honor to be commemorated this way. On the other, this so-called honor took away the freedom and any hope of a normal life from numerous women.
In most cases it was only the faint hope of such an honor because the honor, even if it was actually bestowed, was only done posthumously. When it did, it was the family of the dead who actually benefit from it, So, there was certainly a lot of incentive for the family of the dead husband to make sure the widow stayed to live a virtuous life. But rarely any reason for the widow to do so.