Evolution of China’s Gender Relations in Jung Chang’s Wild Swans

Topics: Gender role, Communism, Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong / Pages: 9 (2057 words) / Published: Oct 18th, 2008
From Servants of Men to Soldiers of the State:
Evolution of China’s Gender Relations in Jung Chang’s Wild Swans

Christina Ku (Student ID: 050788207)
Yunxiang Gao
HST 555: Section II: History of Modern China I (1644-1949)
Wednesday, November 14, 2007.

As China faced new international pressures and the change to a communist society, gender relations transformed women from servants of men to full independent workers, who finally became soldiers of the communist state. In Jung Chang’s novel, Wild Swans, the three women – grandmother Yu-Fang, mother Bao-Qin and daughter Jung Chang – exemplify the expected gender roles of each generation. I will argue that Confucian society presented few economic opportunities for women to support themselves and thus positioned women to become the exploited tools of men. However, with the encroachment of foreign powers and the weakening of the Chinese state, the next generation was forced to challenge the Confucian principles that created a patriarchal model of society. In the interest of saving China, the New Culture Movement aimed to adopt foreign practices that encouraged women to migrate into the public sphere as independent and self-sufficient workers. In addition, I will argue that communist party policy further moved to transform both women and men into workers of the public sphere, though at the expense of both genders losing their domestic roles as a companion and parent. Finally, under the cult of Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution, both genders became militarized and used as tools of the state to fight so-called political enemies and threats to the state. During the late Qing dynasty, China’s patriarchal society assigned each gender a specific function which positioned women as servants for men, and structured marriage as a transaction to achieve social progress. Based on tradition, occupations were largely determined by sex: men dominated the public sphere while women controlled the domestic sphere .



Bibliography: Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Evans, Harriet. “Past, Perfect or Imperfect: Changing Images of the Ideal Wife.” In Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, edited by Susan Brownell and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, 335- 360. California: University of California Press, 2002. Glosser, Susan. “‘The Truths I Have Learned’: Nationalism, Family Reform, and Male Identity in China’s New Cultural Movement, 1915-1923.” In Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, edited by Susan Brownell and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, 120-145. California: University of California Press, 2002. Honig, Emily. “Maoist Mappings of Gender: Reassessing the Red Guards,” In Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, edited by Susan Brownell and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, 255- 268. California: University of California Press, 2002. Jankowiak, William. “Proper Men & Proper Women: Parental Affection in the Chinese Family.” In Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, edited by Susan Brownell and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, 361-380. California: University of California Press, 2002. Mann, Susan. “Grooming a Daughter for Marriage: Brides & Wives in the Mid-Qing Period.” In Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, edited by Susan Brownell and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, 93-119. California: University of California Press, 2002.

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