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8 November 1875|
Shanyin, Shaoxing, Zhejiang, Qing Dynasty
|Died||15 July 1907
Shanyin, Shaoxing, Zhejiang, Qing Dynasty
|Cause of death||Decapitation|
|Spouse(s)||Wang Tingjun (王廷鈞)|
|Children||Wang Yuande (王沅德)
Wang Guifen (王桂芬)
|Parent(s)||Qiu Xinhou (秋信候)|
Qiu Jin (Chinese: 秋瑾; pinyin: Qiū Jǐn; Wade–Giles: Ch'iu Chin; November 8, 1875 – July 15, 1907) was a Chinese revolutionary, feminist, and writer. Her courtesy names are Xuanqing (Chinese: 璿卿; pinyin: Xuánqīng) and Jingxiong (simplified Chinese: 竞雄; traditional Chinese: 競雄; pinyin: Jìngxióng). Her sobriquet name is Jianhu Nüxia (simplified Chinese: 鉴湖女侠; traditional Chinese: 鑑湖女俠; pinyin: Jiànhú Nǚxiá) which, when translated literally into English, means "Woman Knight of Mirror Lake". Qiu was executed after a failed uprising against the Qing dynasty, and she is considered a national heroine in China.
Born in Xiamen, Fujian, Qiu grew up in her ancestral home, Shanyin Village, Shaoxing, Zhejiang. During an unhappy marriage, Qiu came into contact with new ideas. She became a member of the Triads, who at the time advocated the overthrow of the Qing and restoration of Han Chinese governance.
In 1903, she decided to travel overseas and study in Japan, leaving her two children behind. She initially entered a Japanese language school in Surugadai, but later transferred to the Girls' Practical School in Kōjimachi, run by Shimoda Utako. Qiu was fond of martial arts, and she was known by her acquaintances for wearing Western male dress and for her nationalist, anti-Manchu ideology. She joined the anti-Qing society Guangfuhui, led by Cai Yuanpei, which in 1905 joined together with a variety of overseas Chinese revolutionary groups to form the Tongmenghui, led by Sun Yat-sen.
Within this Revolutionary Alliance, Qiu was responsible for the Zhejiang Province. Because the Chinese overseas students were divided between those who wanted an immediate return to China to join the ongoing revolution and those who wanted to stay in Japan to prepare for the future, a meeting of Zhejiang students was held to debate the issue. At the meeting, Qiu allied unquestioningly with the former group and thrust a dagger into the podium, declaring: "If I return to the motherland, surrender to the Manchu barbarians, and deceive the Han people, stab me with this dagger!" She subsequently returned to China in 1906 along with some 2,000 other students.
Whilst still based in Tokyo, Qiu single-handedly edited a journal entitled Vernacular Journal (Baihua Bao). The journal published a number of issues using vernacular Chinese as a medium of revolutionary propaganda. In one issue, Qiu wrote a manifesto entitled "A Respectful Proclamation to China's 200 Million Women Comrades", where she lamented the problems caused by bound feet and oppressive marriages. Having suffered from both ordeals herself, Qiu explained her experience in the manifesto and received an overwhelmingly sympathetic response from her readers. Also outlined in the manifesto was Qiu's belief that a better future for women lay under a Western-type government instead of the Qing government that was in power at the time. She joined forces with her cousin Xu Xilin and together they worked to unite many secret revolutionary societies to work together for the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty.
She was an eloquent orator who spoke out for women's rights, such as the freedom to marry, freedom of education, and abolishment of the practice of foot binding. In 1906 she founded a radical women's journal with another female poet, Xu Zihua, called China Women's News (Zhongguo nü bao), though it published only two issues before it was closed by the authorities. In 1907 she became head of the Datong school in Shaoxing, ostensibly a school for sport teachers, but really intended for the military training of revolutionaries.
On July 6, 1907 Xu Xilin was caught by the authorities before a scheduled uprising in Anqing. He confessed his involvement under interrogation and was executed. On July 12, the authorities arrested Qiu at the school for girls where she was a principal. She was tortured but refused to admit her involvement in the plot but they found incriminating documents and, a few days later, she was publicly beheaded in her home village, Shanyin, at the age of 31. Qiu was immediately acknowledged by the revolutionaries as a heroine and martyr, and she became a symbol of women's independence in China.
Qiu was immortalised in the Republic of China's popular consciousness and literature after her death. She is now buried beside West Lake in Hangzhou. The People's Republic of China established a museum for her in Shaoxing, named after Qiu Jin's Former Residence (绍兴秋瑾故居).
Her life has been portrayed in two films: one, simply entitled Qiu Jin, was released in 1983 and directed by Xie Jin; the second was released in 2011, entitled Jing Xiong Nüxia Qiu Jin (竞雄女侠秋瑾), or The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake, and directed by Herman Yau.
Because Qiu is mainly remembered in the West as revolutionary and feminist, her poetry and essays are often overlooked (though owing to her early death, they are not great in number). Her writing reflects an exceptional education in classical literature, and she writes traditional poetry (shi and ci). Qiu composes verse with a wide range of metaphors and allusions that mix classical mythology with revolutionary rhetoric.
For example, in a poem Ayscough translates as Capping Rhymes with Sir Ishii From Sun's Root Land (147) we read the following:
Don't tell me women are not the stuff of heroes,
Editors Sun Chang and Saussy (642) explain the metaphors as follows:
- line 4: "Your islands" translates "sandao," literally "three islands," referring to Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, while omitting Hokkaido - an old fashion way of referring to Japan.
- line 6: ... the conditions of the bronze camels, symbolic guardians placed before the imperial palace, is traditionally considered to reflect the state of health of the ruling dynasty. But in Qiu's poetry, it reflects instead the state of health of China.
On leaving Beijing for Japan, she wrote a poem summarizing her life until that point:
Sun and moon have no light left, earth is dark;
- Ono, Kazuko (1989). Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, 1850-1950. Stanford University Press. p. 61. ISBN 9780804714976.
- Ono, Kazuko (1989). Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, 1850-1950. Stanford University Press. pp. 61–62. ISBN 9780804714976.
- Ono, Kazuko (1989). Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, 1850-1950. Stanford University Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 9780804714976.
- Fincher, Leta Hong (2014). Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. London, New York: Zed Books. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-78032-921-5.
- Browne, Nick; Pickowicz, Paul G.; Yau, Esther (eds.). New Chinese Cinemas: Forms, Identities, Politics. Cambridge University Press. p. 33. ISBN 0 521 44877 8.
- Kuhn, Annette; Radstone, Susannah (eds.). The Women's Companion to International Film. University of California Press. p. 434. ISBN 0520088794.
- translated by Zachary Jean Chartkoff
- Spence, Jonathan D. (1981). The Gate of Heavenly Peace. Penguin Books. p. 85.
- Ayscough, Florence. Chinese Women: yesterday & to-day. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. (1937)
- Chang, Kang-i Sun and Haun Saussy (eds) Women writers of traditional China: an anthology of poetry and criticism. Charles Kwong, associate editor; Anthony C. Yu and Yu-kung Kao, consulting editors. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. (1999)