Women's Magazines from the Republican Period at the Institute of Chinese Studies
 




 
 
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Why Women's Magazines from the Republican Period?

Women’s magazines, the first of which appeared in China in 1898, were a significant side-product from the rise of a free press based on the foreign model in late 19th century treaty port China. As public fora of discussion explicitly catering to women, they were of and by themselves indicators of some of the rapid changes in Chinese society at the time: during the first decades of the twentieth century, women from all strata of society would gradually be accepted into a reading and writing community that worked within and, more importantly, also without the confines of the home. Published during a time when women’s position and range of activities expanded and were being redefined constantly, these journals had the potential as well as the aspiration to serve as a catalyst for such developments. By nature of the modern print medium they were able to spread their message to a much greater (male and) female public than had ever been reached before.

Women’s magazines can be attributed with having formed a powerful image: the so-called New Woman (xin nüxing 新 女性) who came into prominence in the first decade of the twentieth century. Our readings of women’s magazines show that the portrayal of this woman is characterized by blatant ambiguities: she represented an ideal to be defined and constantly redefined throughout the Republican period. She is the obvious product of a new age but she also retains many qualities of another, older age, not quite gone by. In all her ambiguities, she is a telltale sign illustrating competing models for the enactment of feminine selfhood in the late Qing and the early Republic.

As modernity became a spiritual adventure for China, this New Woman became its most powerful symbol. She stood for all that was weak and “wrong with China” and at the same time, was seen as the locus of change, the embodiment of what “modernity” could mean for China. Accordingly, women’s magazines which played a pivotal part in creating the New Woman, are important sources for the social and cultural developments in early modern China. They have hitherto not been studied in a rigorous and systematic manner and it is to facilitate such study that this website has been designed. The website is the product of an higher level undergraduate seminar taught at Heidelberg University in the summer of 2003. It intends to give a short introduction to some of the women's magazines contained in the Chinese library collection at Heidelberg University.

There is not much information in the secondary literature on these magazines and therefore, most of the information presented here is based on a first (and cursory) reading of the magazines themselves. As far as possible, the institutional background and information on the editors and contributors to these magazines has been included here, but many grey areas remain. It is our sincere hope that this website will continue to change and grow. The contributors to this website would be grateful to any readers willing to share any additional information they might have on any of these magazines, their editors or contributors. Please write to us (using the "comments" button) and we will be happy to incorporate your contribution!

This website consists almost entirely of edited student submissions. Although some attempts at unification have been made in terms of structure and contents, each of the contributions continues to follow the individual style of its author. Some of the websites were formulated in German and await translation into English.

The contributors to this website are Mechthild Adameit, Marion Ehscheid, Yuan-Chun Hu, Cora Jungbluth, Thip Keomany, Barbara Mittler, Viola Schlenzig, Verena Schmaltz, Sonja Stähle, Tessie Weingartner, Fang-ting Yuan and Yan Han.

This website would look much differently had it not been for the help of two people: It has been designed by Sabine Pfefferlein and Matthias Arnold. Many thanks to them.


 
 
© 2003 Barbara Mittler