||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (May 2013)|
|Born||8 November 1875|
|Died||15 July 1907(aged 31)|
|Cause of death||Decapitation|
|Spouse(s)||Wang Tingjun (王廷鈞)|
|Children||Wang Yuande (王沅德)
Wang Guifen (王桂芬)
|Parents||Qiu Xinhou (秋信候)|
Qiu Jin (Chinese: 秋瑾; pinyin: Qiū Jǐn; November 8, 1875 – July 15, 1907), courtesy names Xuanqing (Chinese: 璿卿; pinyin: Xuánqīng) and Jingxiong (simplified Chinese: 竞雄; traditional Chinese: 競雄; pinyin: Jìngxióng), sobriquet Jianhu Nüxia (simplified Chinese: 鉴湖女侠; traditional Chinese: 鑑湖女俠; pinyin: Jiànhú Nǚxiá; literally "Woman Knight of Mirror Lake"), was a Chinese revolutionary, feminist and writer. She was executed after a failed uprising against the Qing Dynasty. She is considered a national heroine in China.
Born in Xiamen, Fujian, Qiu grew up in her ancestral home, Shanyin Village, Shaoxing, Zhejiang. Married, Qiu found herself in contact with new ideas. In 1904 she decided to travel overseas and study in Japan, leaving her two children behind. She was fond of martial arts, and known by her acquaintances for wearing Western male dress and for her left-wing ideology. She joined the Triads, who at the time advocated the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and restoration of Han Chinese governance. She joined the anti-Qing societies Guangfuhui, led by Cai Yuanpei, and the Tokyo-based Tongmenghui led by Sun Yat-sen. She returned to China in 1905.
After returning to China, Qiu started publishing a women's magazine in which she encouraged women to gain financial independence through education and training in various professions. She encouraged women to resist oppression by their families and by the government. At the time it was still customary for women in China to have their feet bound at the age of five. The result of this practice was that the feet were small but crippled. Women's freedom of movement was severely restricted and left them dependent on other people. Such helpless women were, however, more desired as wives, so their families continued the practice to protect their daughters' future security.
Qiu felt 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, in Shanghai. 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. Immediately after, 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 acknowledged immediately 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 Qiu Jin's Former Residence (绍兴秋瑾故居).
Her life has been portrayed in two films, one simply entitled Qiu Jin released in 1983 and a second in 2011 named Jing Xiong Nüxia Qiu Jin (竞雄女侠秋瑾).
While Qiu is mainly remembered in the West as revolutionary and feminist, one aspect of her life that gets overlooked is her poetry and essays, though having died at such an early age, they are not great in number. Having received an exceptional education in classical literature, reflected in her writing of more traditional poetry (shi and ci) Qiu composed verse with a wide range of metaphors and allusions; mixing classical mythology along with revolutionary rhetoric.
For example, in a poem Ayscough translates as, Capping Rhymes with Sir Shih Ching 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;
- 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)
- Sun Chang, Kang-i 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)