Ole P. Fossgård: The Early Chinese Anarchist Discourse on Feminism, 1906-1910

The Chinese revolutionary ideology which emerged during the final years of the last Chinese dynasty, the Qing (1644-1911), was mainly developed in Chinese student circles in Japan. In addition to nationalism, anarchism grew out as one rather distinct current of thought.

In 1906 anarchists in Tokyo established the Shehui zhuyi jiangxi hui (Society for the Study of Socialism), which published the two journals Tianyi bao (Natural Justice) and Hengbao (Balance). This group was influenced by leading European anarchist thinkers in the latter part of the 19th century, like Peter Kropotkin. At approximately the same time as the Chinese Tokyo anarchist society was founded, a group of Chinese anarchists in Paris established the Xin shijie she (New World Society), which started the publication of the journal Xin Shiji (New Era) in 1907. The Paris anarchists were under heavy influence of Kropotkin and Michail Bakunin, and serialised translations of them and other European anarchists like Errico Malatesta and Elisèe Reclus. The main figures of the Tokyo group were Liu Shipei and his wife He Zhen. They considered pre-modern Chinese thought to be close to anarchist social ideals. At the same time they preached equality of the sexes and a society free from classes. While the Tokyo group was rather anti-modernist, the Paris anarchists took a clear stand against Chinese tradition. They considered the family to be the basis of inequality in society, and called for a women's revolution.

Chinese feminism developed as part of the reform movement in China during the last decade of the 19th century, and the question of women was treated in numerous journals between 1902 to 1911, both in feminist journals like the Zhongguo xin nü jie zazhi (New Chinese Women's World) and in revolutionary journals like the Minbao (People's Journal). However, female liberation was generally seen as an integral part of the greater goal of a liberation of the Chinese nation, and did not include the destruction of traditional social institutions like the family.

The Chinese anarchist discourse on feminism, especially that of the Tokyo group, represents something new. The anarchists wanted to destroy the state and all social institutions, beginning with the family. Thus their concept of female liberation was that of liberation of women from the family and not only within the family, which other feminists seemed to be content with. Through their focus on women the Chinese anarchists' feminism provided a new, radical view of the individual in relation to the family, society and the state.

This project aims to analyse how a Chinese anarchist discourse of feminism emerged in the first decade of the 20th century, a discourse where the relationship between the individual, society and state was seen with new eyes. The main focus will be on the Chinese anarchists in Tokyo and their journal Tianyi bao, which was published for about one year from July 1907. This feminist discourse will be examined in the larger picture of Chinese anarchism in particular and anarchism in general. Another important focus will be on the negotiation between the Tokyo group's discourse on feminism in Tianyi bao and the Paris anarchists' discourse on feminism developed mainly in the Xin Shiji. Finally, the project will analyse the Chinese anarchist discourse on feminism in the context of late Qing feminism and the role of women in society.

The Early Chinese Anarchist Discourse on Feminism is part of the research project The Chinese Individual under the joint heading Intellectual Discourses.

Selected Bibliography

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Bernal, Martin. "The Triumph of Anarchism over Marxism, 1906-1907". In Wright, Mary Clabaugh. China in Revolution: The First Phase 1900-1913. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968, pp. 97-142.

Chang Hao. Chinese Intellectuals in Crisis: Search for Order and Meaning (1890-1911). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

Dirlik, Arif. "Vision and Revolution: Anarchism in Chinese Revolutionary Thought on the Eve of the 1911 Revolution". In Modern China, Volume 12, Issue 2, April 1986, pp. 123-165.

______. Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Gasster, Michael. Chinese Intellectuals and the Revolution of 1911: The Birth of Modern Chinese Radicalism. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969.

Gao Jun, Wang Guilin and Yang Shubiao, eds. Wu zhengfu zhuyi zai zhongguo (Anarchism in China). 2 vols. Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1984.

Karl, Rebecca E. "'Slavery,' Citizenship, and Gender in Late Qing China's Global Context". In Karl, Rebecca E., and Zarrow, Peter. Rethinking the 1898 Reform Period: Political and Cultural Change in Late Qing China. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, 2002, pp. 212-244.

Pusey, James Reeve. China and Charles Darwin. Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1983.

Rankin, Mary Backus. Early Chinese Revolutionaries: Radical Intellectuals in Shanghai and Chekiang, 1902-1911. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971.

Scalapino, Robert A., and Yu, George T. The Chinese Anarchist Movement. Berkeley: Center for Chinese Studies, Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1961.

Teng, Ssu-yü, and Fairbank, John K. China's Response to the West: A Documentary Survey, 1839-1923. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954.

Zarrow, Peter. "He Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China". In Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 47, No. 4, 1988, pp. 796-813.

______. Anarchism and Chinese Political Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Published June 29, 2010 1:41 PM