Tag Archives: Chinese Women

A paragraph from A Blue Moon in China, musings on the One Child Policy

“I stared up at the billboard and wondered what other choices this country might have to keep its population down other than to regulate the number of children born. I had a feeling, religious belief or not, that having an abortion was a big deal emotionally, regardless of the reason. I totally agreed with the legal right for a woman to choose; it is her body and raising a child is a big deal. I was lucky I lived in the U.S. and had the right to decide for myself what I felt was best.”

A Blue Moon in China

one paragraph of me contemplating the Chinese One Couple One Child policy in my travel memoir set in 1988.

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One Year Later, June 4, 1989. China

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That photograph was taken in 1988. It couldn’t be taken today. This post is the epilogue in my memoir, A Blue Moon in China. It’s titled: One Year Later

I watched with the world as tanks rolled through the streets of Beijing. The People’s Liberation Army was ordered to use lethal force to disperse millions of China’s own citizens, unarmed and peacefully assembled – the very people the PLA was sworn to protect. (I learned later that the violence erupted in 70 cities across the country.)

I can’t describe how I felt seeing bloodshed in a city and against a people I had so recently visited and come to know. The knowledge that my peers led the protest was poignant; it touched me deeply. Even now, 25 years later, tears fall from my eyes as I write, my heart breaks.

Over the course of the 55 days that culminated in what China’s citizens call the June Fourth Massacre, people from all walks of life became involved in the protests. University students led the demonstration for democracy, freedom of speech, for freedom of the press, to choose their own job, for higher wages, and against corruption among Party officials; the working person was angry about inflation, loss of jobs, and work conditions.

No one knows how many lives were lost in the cold-blooded suppression. The most common estimate is 2500 people died in Beijing alone, some put the number much higher. Tens of thousands were wounded. The hospitals were overwhelmed. The dead were piled up on the streets and in the morgues. Afterward, thousands were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. Many of those who formed a workers’ union were immediately executed. With the help of unsung heroes who risked their lives, many of the student leaders and intellectuals on the government’s “most wanted” list managed to escape to foreign lands. They are still there in exile today and have been living abroad now longer than they lived in China.

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There is nothing like Good Press, especially from the Library Journal.

A Blue Moon in ChinaPilar’s memoir of her trip through China as a 21-year-old is a look back at a very different country and a barely remembered manner of travel. In 1988, travelers could not use the web to check reviews on youth hostels and restaurants, sightseeing spots, or train schedules. Google Earth was not around to provide a close-up look at destinations, and no one was carrying a smartphone to make the journey easier. In 1988, Pilar hopped on a train from Hong Kong into China with no guidebook or language skills and no idea what was ahead of her. On her journey of self-discovery, Pilar learns about herself as she wanders through China, forming connections with trekkers from around the world and with the Chinese people she meets. Based on Pilar’s journal entries, the reconstructed conversations are creative and add life to her tale. One year before Tiananmen Square, China in 1988 is in the midst of change, and Pilar reflects the conflict of some of the people she encounters.
Verdict This title is a nice addition to women’s studies readings as it chronicles the kind of travel undertaken with a tattered map and the recommendations of students met on trains.Library Journal*

* I kept the reviewer’s name private as this is a subscription-only periodical with librarians and academics in mind.

A Blue Moon in China

If you want to read my story, I’d love for you to order it from an local bookstore and ask your library to add it to their collection.

Softcover: $18.99.   ISBN:  978-0-9904251-9-9

there are 18 black and white photographs I took while there, an index, recommended reading, movies, and music from the book. I hand-drew the map.

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Women for New Culture, May 4th, 1919. China’s First Feminists

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The bas relief pictured above is a depiction of the May Fourth Movement in 1919, and is part of a series of eight on the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square commemorating key victories for the liberation of China from Imperialist and Dynastic rule.

My eye is drawn to the women and, specifically, the mystery of their feet.
They are unbound, natural. Yet the year was 1919.

For centuries it was tradition in China to break the feet of little girls, shape them in the most extreme arch possible, then wrap them with cloth. Ostensibly for marriageability. The result was mutilated feet that became rank with a putrid odor.

When the Manchurians conquered China in 1644, they banned their own women from partaking in the practice and tried to outlaw it for the Chinese. It didn’t work. The Han Chinese found a new value in the old tradition as an ethnic tie to the glory of the lost Ming dynasty.

In the 1898 Hundred Days Reform, the Manchus, who themselves considered educated women a sign of wealth, included in the reformation a school for girls in Shanghai, and another campaign to end foot binding.

Still, in 1919, the practice was more prevalent than not.* (In my own travels through China in 1988, I saw an old woman with bound feet.)

So, I wonder who these flat-footed women in the sculpture are: How were they lucky enough to be unbound in that day and age?

The protest captured in marble was of a movement merely eight years after the Nationalists were victorious dethroning the Qing Dynasty. The women featured in the relief would have been approximately twelve years old at that time, in 1911, And since the binding usually began when a girl was five years old, one would think the feet of these women would most definitely have been bound.

So what’s the explanation?

Perhaps, the answer is simple: That in 1952, the absence of foot-binding in the sculpture was ordered by the Communist Party to demonstrate progress and equality of the sexes?

But there is the possibility the women who protested in 1919 truly did natural feet.

The reason for this may be found in other aspects of the sculpture: One woman carries a book; another passes out pamphlets. This suggests that they were learned, had time to study, which meant they had to have money. Most likely they had access to literature from the West. They probably came from a privileged, progressive class, or at least, from a family who cherished the feminine voice, and valued the education of women.

The women for the New Culture were writers, readers, teachers, and advocates for new attitudes toward marriage, and sex. They were rebels against the confines of Confucian Tradition. They were vocal debaters on the role of the female in the New China. They wanted to have a profession, to contribute to society. They advocated human rights, independence, and the freedom to choose a life they wanted.

They were China’s first feminists. They believed that for China to progress, women had to be included. And they published works that said so.

They were up against a major current.

Historically, there had been mixed messages for females. One of the most famous female writers, Ban Zhao, born in 45 B.C.E., during the Han Dynasty, wrote a book for women that covered the complexities of astronomy yet also taught them how to be submissive to their husbands. Even behind closed doors, there was a dichotomy: Lu Xun, the most famous male writer promoting a break from Confucian traditions, and the emancipation of women in 1919, lived with a liberated, younger woman, Xu Guangping, but wouldn’t support her pursuit of her dreams; he wanted her to support his. (See pg. 65, Women in the Chinese Enlightenment. Zheng Wang, 1999.)

In spite of the barriers, the young women demonstrating on the streets all over the China on May 4th, 1919, demanded equality, a New Culture for China, and the right to attend university. In 1920, the first women were allowed to study at Beijing University. It was a monumental success.

Seventy years later, the women of May Fourth Movement 1989, students of Beijing universities, equally committed to a better China, equally brave, equally determined, took to the streets calling for democracy and freedom. But their protest will likely never be immortalized in stone, honored for generations to come.

 

 

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Photo: http://www.asiavtour.com/blog/showlist-u19-a209-s10.html

Blog edited by Christopher Ross

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