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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Gender and Theatre: Portrayals of Women Characters on the Chinese Stage
1: The Left-Behind Women of Chinese Women's Liberation: A Portrait of Lu Xun's Invisible Wife
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Oregon State University, United States
The Chinese women’s liberation movement in the early 20th century had three goals: abolishing foot-binding and arranged marriages and promoting women’s education. This movement liberated future generations of young women from the oppressions of the old system. Yet a whole generation of women caught in the transition from the old to the new found that their womanly virtues and accomplishments, which were admired in the old society, suddenly became liabilities. They became the victims of women’s liberation rather than its beneficiaries. This paper discusses the life story of one such woman, the prominent writer Lu Xun’s first wife, Zhu An. Lu Xun’s marriage with Zhu was a typical arranged marriage forced upon him by his mother. Zhu was illiterate and had bound feet. As a progressive young intellectual, Lu Xun did not want to be saddled with an old-fashioned wife. So, his reaction to this repulsive arrangement was to ignore her existence during their 30-year marriage. Chen Yongquan’s Henan opera Wind and Rain in the Old Country (2005) chronicles her lifelong struggle to win her husband’s acceptance and affection. Her hope for a normal married life is shattered when Lu Xun marries his student. She can only resign herself to be a living widow and a dutiful daughter-in-law. I will also discuss the receptions of this play and its stage performances to shed light on how social and political environment affects artistic creations in contemporary China.