HERSTORY

As it turns out, a lot has happened in China over the years. This section is a very brief summary of some of the things we know. Basically - we did a Chinese Studies degree so you don't have to. 

** Like us - this section is a work in progress! Stay tuned & watch this space!

WHO CARES?

THE QING DYANSTY WAS FOUNDED AFTER A MANCHURIAN INVASION. THIS MEANT THAT THE HAN PEOPLE WERE NO LONGER THE DOMINANT ETHNIC GROUP。

SO WHAT?

THE QING DYNASTY WAS INITIALLY VERY SUCCESSFUL. THE KANGXI EMPEROR WAS THE LONGEST RULING EMPEROR AND OVERSAW MANY CULTURAL LEAPS DURING THIS TIME WHERE CHINA EXPANDED TRADE ROUTE, CENTRALISED GOVERNMENT AND STANDARDISED THE LANGUAGE. 

THE QIANLONG EMPEROR IS TYPICALLY BLAMED FOR TAKING HIS EYE OFF THE BALL. HE WAS MUCH MORE INTERESTED IN ART AND CULTURE THAN RULING. 

TOWARDS THE 1800S, CHINESE SOCIETY BECAME MUCH MORE CONSERVATIVE WITH GREAT EMPHASIS PLACED UP PURITY AND VIRTUE. WIDOW SUCIDE BECAME A BIG THING WITH PEAK NUMBERS POPPING UP AROUND THE MID 1800S. 

WHO CARES?

ROLL THE TAPE FORWARD TO THE START OF THE 1900S - CHINA IS HAVING A MAJOR IDENTITY CRISIS.

SAME, BUT WHY?

WE'RE GOING TO START AT THE 1900S & ITS BACKGROUND. BUCKLE IN X 

WHATEVER WAS THE QING DYNANSTY?

THE QING DYNASTY (1644 - 1912) WAS THE LAST IMPERIAL DYNASTY OF CHINA. 

CHINA HAD ITS BUTT KICKED DURING THE 19TH CENTURY IN THE OPIUM WARS. FOR A LONG TIME, CHINA HAD BEEN LEAPS AHEAD OF WESTERN CIVILISATION AND WAS VERY SMUG ABOUT THE FACT. 

HOWEVER, THE AFTERMATH OF THE OPIUM WARS LEFT CHINA ECONOMICALLY DEVASTATED AND FORCED INTO SIGNING 'UNEQUAL TREATIES' THAT GAVE WESTERN POWERS TRADING RIGHTS AND PORTS. 

TO REINFORCE OUR POINT ABOUT CHINA'S SUPERIORITY COMPLEX, ZHONG GUO 中国

LITERALLY MEANS 'MIDDLE KINGDOM。"

POLITICAL INSTABILITY AND A FEW REBELLIONS (THE TAIPING & BOXER) FUTHER DESTABLISED THE QING DYNASTY。

FURTHERMORE, THEY NOW HAD A WOMAN IN CHARGE.

WHOEVER WAS THE DOWAGER EMPRESS CIXI?

AN EX-CONCUBINE TURNED EMPRESS, CIXI ACTED AS REGENT TO HER INFANT SON AFTER HER HUSBAND DIED AND LATER, FOR HER NEPHEW. ALTHOUGH NOT OFFICIALLY HEAD OF STATE, SHE IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE TRUE HEAD OF POLITICAL POWER AT THIS TIME.

CIXI WAS NOT THE FIRST FEMALE HEAD OF STATE. THE EMPRESS WU ZE TIAN RULED DURING THE TANG DYNASTY。

SOMETIMES DESCRIBED AS A THATCHERITE CHARACTER, CIXI'S REIGN HAS BEEN HEAVILY CRITICISED OVER THE YEARS. 

THE BOXER REBELLION (1899) WAS INSPIRED BY XENOPHOBIC, ANTI-CHRISTIAN AND ANTI-IMPERIALIST SENTIMENT WHICH HAD BEEN BREWING IN CHINA FOR A LONG TIME. 

FOREIGN POWERS WERE EVENTUALLY BROUGHT IN TO SUBDUE THE UPRISING AND REPARATIONS OF OVER 450 MILLION TAELS WERE INTRODUCED。

THE QING DYNASTY EVENTUALLY FELL IN 1911。

CHANGES TO MODERNISE, SUCH AS THE ABOLITION OF THE TRADITIONAL 'EIGHT-LEGGED EXAMS' (A HORRIFICALLY LONG AND EXAMINATION PROCESS WHERE PEOPLE SAT EXAMS FOR DAYS ON END), 

CIXI ALSO BUILT CHINA'S FIRST RAILROAD, INTRODUCED ELECTRICITY, COAL MINING AND COMMISSIONED CHINA'S FIRST NATIONAL FLAG。

IT IS WIDELY BELIEVED THAT SHE MURDERED HER NEPHEW JUST BEFORE SHE DIED TO ENSURE HE WOULD NOT UNDO ANY OF HER WORK. 

WHATEVER WAS THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA?

FOUNDED IN 1912, AFTER THE ABDICATION OF THE LAST EMPEROR PUYI (THEN ONLY 6) UNDER THE PRESIDENCY OF SUN YAT-SEN ENDING 5,000 YEARS OF IMPERIAL RULE.

YUAN SHIKAI (A MILITARY OFFICIAL) SOON TOOK OVER. THE POWER VACUUM AND FACTIONAL STRUGGLES DURING THIS TIME ARE KNOWN AS THE WARLORD ERA. 

WHATEVER WAS THE MAY FOURTH MOVEMENT?

SPOILER: NOTHING TO DO WITH STAR WARS WHATSOEVER.

CHINA FELT PARTICULARLY HARD DONE BY THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES (1919) AND WERE RESENTFUL OF THE FACT THAT THEY WERE EXCLUDED FROM TALKS THAT CEDED LANDS FORMERLY OWNED BY GERMANY WITHIN CHINA TO JAPAN. 3,000 STUDENTS IN BEIJING PROTESTED THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES. THESE SOON TURNED VIOLENT AND KICK-STARTED WHAT IS NOW REFERRED TO AS THE MAY FOURTH MOVEMENT.

 

THE MAY FOURTH MOVEMENT GREW INTO AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST, NATIONALIST MOVEMENT ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

LOL, OKAY?

THIS ALSO BIRTHED THE NEW CULTURE MOVEMENT AND SAW BAIHUA (WRITTEN VERNACULAR) TAKE OFF.) (CHINESE WRITERS SUCH AS LU XUN HAD BEEN PIONEERING THIS CHANGE WITH THEIR WORK.) THIS REPLACED LITERARY CHINESE AND MADE LITERATURE AND POLITICS MORE ACCESSIBLE. 

DURING THIS TIME, CHINA DREW GREAT INSPIRATION FROM THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AS A MODEL AND COMMUNICATION BETWEEN RUSSIAN MARXISTS AND ASPIRING CHINESE MARXISTS SOON SPRUNG UP. THE COMMUNIST PART OF CHINA (CPC) WAS FOUNDED IN 1921.

SINCE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, ABOLITION OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM AND INCREASING INTERACTION WITH THE WEST, TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT – MAINLY CONFUCIANISM WAS BEING CHALLENGED BY NEW AND DIFFERENT IDEAS.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

THE NEW AGE OF CHINESE MODERNITY USHERED IN MANY CHANGES. 

THE RISE OF THE SHANGHAIESE COURTEAN WAS CRUCIAL IN ADVANCING WOMEN'S ROLE IN SOCIETY. 

SINCE THE MID-1860S, THE COURTESAN HAD BEGUN TO ENGAGE ACTIVELY WITH SHANGHAI URBAN CULTURE AS A ‘PUBLIC WOMAN’. AS A RESULT, SHE HAD BECOME AN OBJECT OF PUBLIC SCRUTINY AND DESIRE, THUS BECOMING INFLUENTIAL IN DIRECTING POPULAR CULTURE.

 

THE RISE OF THE SHANGHAI COURTESAN PATHED THE WAY FOR MORE LIBERAL VIEWS OF FEMALE SEXUALITY AND ITS DEVELOPMENT AS A MARKETABLE COMMODITY. VISUAL IMAGES PLAYED A CRUCIAL ROLE IN THIS AS THE DEVELOPMENT OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY ALLOWED THE COURTESAN THE PLATFORM TO MARKET HERSELF ON A PREVIOUSLY INACCESSIBLE SCALE.

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN CHINESE ARTISTIC HISTORY, ARTISTS BEGIN TO CATER DIRECTLY TO THE FEMALE AUDIENCE SEEING WOMEN AS INDEPENDENT, FREE AGENTS WITH SPENDING POWER. THUS, WE SEE THE BIRTH OF THE CHINESE 'NEW WOMAN.'

YA LOST ME. WHO IS THE 'CHINESE NEW WOMAN?'

BETWEEN 1920 AND 1930, CHINA’S ‘NEW WOMAN’ EMERGED AS AN INCREASINGLY PROMINENT FIGURE OF CHINESE MODERNITY. SHE CHALLENGED TRADITIONAL NOTIONS OF FEMININITY THROUGH DRESS, ENGAGEMENT IN POLITICS AND INCREASING PRESENCE IN PUBLIC SPACES.

SHE WAS UTILISED HEAVILY DURING THE LATE 1920S TO 1930S AS A MARKETING DEVICE FOR THE YUEFENPAI (ADVERTISEMENT CALENDARS). THESE PROMOTED THE IMAGE OF THE ‘NEW WOMAN’ AS PATRIOTIC THROUGH HER PATRONAGE OF CHINESE PRODUCTS, GLAMOUROUS, INDEPENDENT, BUT, MOST IMPORTANTLY; SEXUAL.

NATIONALISM = COMMERCIALISM

WHATEVER WERE THE YUEFENPAI?

BORN FROM THE COMBINED TRADITIONS OF CHINESE PORTRAITURE, NEW YEAR PAINTINGS AND COMMODITY ADVERTISING, THE YUEFENPAI WERE CALENDAR POSTERS USED TO ADVERTISE COMMERCIAL GOODS IN SHANGHAI DURING THE 1920S AND 1930S. INEXTRICABLY LINKED WITH THE BIRTH OF CHINA’S COMMODITY MARKET, THEY REFLECTED RECENT CHANGES TO CHINESE SOCIETY – THE ASPIRATIONS OF A RISING MIDDLE CLASS, THE INCREASE OF WOMEN’S SOCIAL STATUS, & SOCIAL UNREST THAT MANIFESTED ITSELF IN GROWING ANTI-JAPANESE, NATIONALIST SENTIMENT AND THE GROWTH OF CHINESE ENTERPRISES.

THIS MARRYING OF NATIONALISM AND COMMERCIALISM ARE STRONG CORNER STONES OF CHINESE PATRIOTISM WHICH STILL RING TRUE TODAY.

WHATEVER DOES IBSEN HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

IBSEN’S INFLUENCE IN CHINA CAN BE SPLIT, AS LITERARY RESEARCH HAS TRADITIONALLY DONE, INTO TWO SECTIONS; SOCIAL POLITICAL AND ARTISTIC. THE FIRST PART OF THIS IS IBSEN’S INTRODUCTION INTO CHINA BY LU XUN IN 1907.

HIS SUBSEQUENT RISE IN POPULARITY WAS DUE TO THE FACT THAT DISGRUNTLED INTELLECTUALS SUCH AS LU XUN IDENTIFIED WITH HIS ‘PROBLEM PLAYS’ AND THUS HIS POLITICS AND IDEOLOGY. THE MENTALITY BEHIND THE MAY THE FOURTH MOVEMENT TENDED TO THEIR FEARS AND DISCONTENT ABOUT THE FATE OF THEIR NATION SO THAT WHEN HU SHI’S TRANSLATION OF A DOLL’S HOUSE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1918 ALONGSIDE HIS OWN ESSAY, ‘IBSENISM’, IT WAS WELL RECEIVED.

FOR MANY, A DOLL’S HOUSE ACCURATELY REPRESENTED A BREAKDOWN OF THE HYPOCRISY OF MODERN CHINA THEY BELIEVED TO BE PLAGUING SOCIETY. DURING THIS TIME, NORA ROSE TO A CULT STATUS AND ‘NORAISM’ WAS INTRODUCED TO CHINA. IT IS HERE THAT CHINESE NORA DIVERGED FROM HER ORIGINAL NORWEGIAN COUNTERPART AS SHE WAS MELDED TO FIT WITH THE IMAGE OF CHINA’S ‘NEW WOMAN.’

TO MANY, NORA EMBODIED THE INDIVIDUALIST SPIRIT OF THE MOVEMENT, LIBERATING HERSELF FROM THE CHAINS OF ‘FEUDALISM/PATRIARCHY’ AS THE DOOR SWUNG SHUT ON HER DEPARTURE.

DID YOU KNOW? MADAME MAO ONCE PLAYED NORA FROM 'A DOLL'S HOUSE?'

 

WHATEVER WAS THE CHINESE CIVIL WAR?

THE CHINESE CIVIL WAR WAS FOUGHT BETWEEN THE KMT (GUOMINGDANG) - NATIONAL PARTY AND THE CPC (CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY.)

THERE WAS A BRIEF RESTBITE DURING SECOND SINO-JAPANESE WAR WHERE THE TWO FORMED A UNITED FRONT TO TACKLE THE JAPANESE INVASION. 

WHO'S WHO?

HEADING UP THE CPC IS YA BOY MAO AND ON THE OTHER SIDE WE HAVE CHIANG KAI-SHEK. 

THE SHANGHAI MASSACRE IN 1927 WHERE KMT FORCES ROUNDED UP AND EXECUTED KNOWN CPC MEMBERS MARKS THE START OF THE WAR.

SURVING MEMBERS FLEE AND ARMED INSURRECTIONS MARK THE FIRST OF THE MANY BATTLES BETWEEN THE TWO AND THE RED ARMY IS BORN. 

TEN YEARS OF FIGHTING ENSUE. 

THIS IS BROKEN BY THE CREATION OF THE  SECOND UNITED FRONT TO DEFEND CHINA AGAINST THE JAPANESE. 

 

WHOEVER WERE THE SOONG SISTERS?

THEIR DAD WAS LOADED AND ALL THREE OF THEM WERE EDUCATED ABROAD IN THE US.

WHO'S WHO?

THEY EACH ENDED UP MAKING POWERFUL MATCHES IN MARRIAGE AND FOUND THEMSELVES ON EITHER SIDE OF THE CIVIL WAR.

SOONG AI-LING (ELDEST) MARRIED H.H KUNG - THE RICHEST MAN IN CHINA AT THE TIME.

AIGHT, AIGHT, AIGHT. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER TWO?

SOONG MEI-LING MARRIED CHIANG KAI-SHEK (KMT GUY.)

 

WHATEVER WAS THE SECOND SINO-JAPANESE WAR?

MILITANT NATIONALISM, IMPERIAL POLICIES AND THE EFFECTS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION ON JAPANESE TRADE SAW A MILITARIST FACTION TAKE CHARGE IN JAPAN.

IN 1937, FOLLOWING THE MARCO POLO BRIDGE INCIDENT - JAPANESE FORCES INVADED CHINA.