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China and Inner Asia
Law, Gender, and Public Opinions of a Post-World War Ⅱ Conundrum: “Resistance-war Wives” in Court and in Newspapers
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Binghamton University, United States
From 1946 to 1948, Shanghai courts saw an explosion of bigamy and adultery lawsuits brought by angry wives against their adulterous husbands. Since most cases happened during the “resistance war” against the Japanese from 1937 to 1945 when families were separated, the husbands’ adulteresses earned the nickname “resistance-war wives.” The paper focuses on one highly publicized adultery case in which the husband was a decorated GMD officer from a wealthy and renowned family, and both of his two “wives” were well-educated modern women. This case received extensive news coverage due to its controversial and scandalous nature. Examination of different arguments between the wife and the husband reveals competing claims about gender, war and nation. The judgements of republican jurists and public discussions about the case also mapped out China’s uneasy negotiation between modern standard of monogamy and Chinese social reality. Furthermore, private marriage disputes assumed broader meanings as the nation’s trauma. As a war problem, such marriage disputes testified to the difficult wartime choices men and women made which continued to haunt the individuals and the nation in post-war China.