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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Life-Writing Projects in Modern Chinese and Vietnamese Cultural History
1: Qiu Jin and the Birth of Chinese Feminism
Monday, March 22, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Purdue University, China
The history of feminism is Eurocentric, and Chinese contributions are largely underestimated. This paper outlines the birth of Chinese feminism and one of its pioneers: Qiu Jin (1875–1907). Qiu Jin is a legendary Chinese woman born into a prominent family in the Fujian province. In 1903, she divorced her husband, went to Japan, and joined in Tongmenghui, a secret society founded by Sun Yat-sen. In the meantime, she also founded Zhongguo nübao, the first journal devoted to women’s studies in China. In 1907, as a result of the failure of the Anqing Uprising, she was executed in Shaoxing city.
This paper chronicles Qiu Jin’s pioneering role in the history of Chinese feminism through a close textual analysis of her feminist writings. In particular, her story Stones of the Jingwei Bird is analyzed to explore both the feminine dystopia it exposes as well as the ideal it envisions. Furthermore, this study offers a comparative analysis of her feminist thoughts and those espoused by Liang Qichao (1873–1929), a hardline reformist, and He-Yin Zhen (1884–1920), a feminist and anarchist, so as to investigate the origins of Chinese feminism more broadly.
The global history of feminism is more heterogeneous and nuanced than has been studied. This paper enriches the existing knowledge about Chinese feminism, traces the feminist tradition in China, and reexamines its role in the history of feminism. Given the understudied status of Chinese feminism, this paper will fill in the lacuna.