He Zhen (anarchist)

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He Zhen

He-Yin Zhen (Chinese: 何震, c. 1884 – c. 1920) was an early 20th century Chinese feminist and anarchist. Born He Ban in Yizheng, Jiangsu, she married the noted scholar Liu Shipei in 1903 and went with him to Tokyo. She then took the name He Zhen (He "Thunderclap") but signed her published writings He-Yin Zhen (何殷震) in order to include her mother's maiden name. She published a number of strong attacks in anarchist journals on male social power which argued that society could not be free without the liberation of women.[1]


Born into a prosperous Jiangsu family and given a good education in the Confucian classics despite being female, she and her sister were married to brothers. He Zhen married Liu Shipei in 1903, and soon she and Liu moved to Shanghai, where she continued her education at the Patriotic Women's School run by Cai Yuanpei. She and Liu moved to Tokyo in 1904. [2] She was a mainstay of the Chinese anarchist group in Tokyo and a major contributor to the journal Tianyee (Tianyi) (Natural Justice), which published in the two years 1907-1908, as well as to the Paris journal, Xin Shiji (New Century or New Era), edited by the anarchist group there led by Li Shizeng and Wu Zhihui. She and her husband both wrote under pen names, and many of her articles were misattributed to Liu.[3] He Zhen also founded the Women's Rights Recovery Association (Nüzi Fuquan Hui), which called for the use of force to end male oppression of women as well as resistance to the ruling class and capitalists while endorsing traditional values such a perseverance and respect for the larger community.[2]

In 1909, after a falling out with the conservative but deeply anti-Manchu scholar Zhang Taiyan, she and Liu returned to China to work with the Manchu government. After the Revolution of 1911, Liu worked with the new government, then was a faculty member at Peking University.[4]

The end of He Zhen's life is still in mystery. Following Liu's death from tuberculosis in 1919, she was rumored to have become a Buddhist nun and ordained under the name Xiao Qi. However, there were also reports that she died of a broken heart or mental disorder.[3]


Her essay "On The Question Of Women's Liberation," which appeared in Tianyi in 1907, opens by declaring that "for thousands of years, the world has been dominated by the rule of man. This rule is marked by class distinctions over which men—and men only—exert proprietary rights. To rectify the wrongs, we must first abolish the rule of men and introduce equality among human beings, which means that the world must belong equally to men and women. The goal of equality cannot be achieved except through women's liberation."[5]

"On The Question Of Women's Labor," published in Tianyi in July 1907, traces the exploitation of women's labor from the times starting with the "well field system" of ancient China, especially decrying the tragedies of prostitution, female infanticide, and concubinage of recent times. [6] "Economic Revolution And Women's Revolution" "On The Revenge Of Women," asks the women of her country: "has it occurred to you that men are our archenemy?" [7] "On Feminist Antimilitarism," and "The Feminist Manifesto" were also powerful indictments of male social power.[8]


  1. ^ Liu (2013), p. 2.
  2. ^ a b Zarrow (1988), pp. 800-801.
  3. ^ a b Liu (2013), pp. 51-52.
  4. ^ Zarrow (1988).
  5. ^ Liu (2013), p. 53.
  6. ^ Liu (2013), pp. 72- 91.
  7. ^ Liu (2013), p. 105.
  8. ^ All translated in Liu, Karl, and Ko, ed., The Birth of Chinese Feminism

References and further reading[edit]

  • Liu, Huiying (2003). "Feminism: An Organic or an Extremist Position? On Tien Yee as Represented by He Zhen". positions: east asia cultures critique. 11 (3): 779–800.
  • Liu, Lydia, Rebecca E. Karl and Dorothy Ko, ed. (2013). The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231162906.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link) CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Zarrow, Peter (1988). "He Zhen and Anarcho-Feminism in China" (PDF). Journal of Asian Studies. 47 (4): 796–813. doi:10.2307/2057853.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Rošker, Jana. 1988. Staatstheorien und anarchistisches Gedankengut in China um die Jahrhundertwende. Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktortitels, Universität Wien, Institut für Sinologie, Geisteswissenschaftliche Fakultät. Wien: Universität Wien.
  • Rošker, Jana S. 2016. Anarchismus in China an der Schwelle des 20. Jahrhundert. Eine vergleichende Studie zu Staatstheorie und anarchistischem Gedankengut in China und in Europa. Saarbrücken: Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften.

External links[edit]