History of Feminism and Feminist Art in China
I. Early Days in Feminist Movement
In the late 19th century, Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao and many other reformists, inspired by "natural right", attached great importance to women's liberation. In his Da Tongshu, Kang Youwei pointed out that men and women, though of different genders, are born with equal rights. Liang Qichao, advocating that women should receive education, opened with Jing Yuanshan Shanghai Girls' School, first of its kind run by a Chinese.
In 1902, The Rights of Women, by Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, sociologist and a social Darwinist, was introduced into China and John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women was translated into Chinese. Western Feminism found its way into China.
On August 20, 1905, Peking Women's Newspaper launched its first issue. It is the first women's newspaper in China.
From 1904 to1908, Lv Bicheng became the first editor of a women's newspaper. To support women's liberation and promote women's education, she published a series of articles in Ta Kung Pao, including On Advocating the Purpose of Female Education, Advice to My Women Compatriots, Perseverance is Essential to the Promotion of Women's Right, etc.
In September, 1904?Beiyang Women's School was founded with Lv Bicheng as dean of studies. The school was renamed Beiyang Women's Normal School with Lv Bicheng as principal.
In the spring of 1907, Qiu Jin started Chinese Women's Newspaper in Shanghai.
On October 10, Wuchang Uprising (Xinhai Revolution) broke out. Sun Zhongshan praised women's valuable contribution to the democratic revolution in Promoting Women's Education in Our Newly Founded Country and a letter. Women's Council was founded to "spread political idea to women, to foster women's political awareness and to obtain suffrage".
In March 1912, Tang Guoli advocated starting a women's association, demanding "female suffrage". Sun Zhongshan gave them great support. On March 16, Chinese Women's Association was founded with Song Qingling as honorary director, Zhang Mojun and Yang Jiwei director and vice director respectively, and Tang Guoli head of the Editing section. Soon Shenzhou Women' School was founded where Tang Guoli taught and started Shenzhou Women's Newspaper, calling on women to learn, to be economically independent, to participate in politics and to demand equal rights with man.
In March 1912, Sun Zhongshan, then provisional president, issued an order to abolish footbinding.
In the early years of the republic, Sun Zhongshan ordered the Education Ministry to issue Interim Regulations on General Education and Curriculum Standards, stating that elementary schools should be co-educational and attaching importance to girls' education.
In 1920, Peking University started to enroll female auditors.
In April 1929, over twenty female artists presented their works at The First National Exhibition of Fine Arts held by the Ministry of Education at Puyutang in Shanghai. In the following several decades more and more female artists came onto the art scene in China, such as Pan Yuliang, Cai Weilian, Fang Junbi, Sun Duoci, Guan Zilan, Qiu Ti, etc. They were born of the women's liberation movement in China.
After the CPC was founded in 1921, lots of women who believed in Marxism and followed the CPC became leaders in the party and women's movement took an active part in the struggle for Chinese liberation. Their voice was gradually subdued and gradually trail off in the momentous anti-capitalist movement.
II. Feminism after the 1980s
After 1949, Chairman Mao's slogans, such as "men and women are the same" and "women can hold up half the sky", built women into an important force in socialist construction.
From the 1960s to the 1970s, there was the second wave of Feminist Movement, with which feminist art grew, but China was almost ignorant of that due to the isolation policy in Cultural Revolution.
In the late '80s and early '90s, the opening up policy gave top priority to the development of economy. As a result, the market economy changed people's life and ideas. The competition caused great imbalance between men and women. Books on feminism, like Simone de Beauvior's The Second Sex, were gradually translated into Chinese.
In 1981, Zhu Hong's Preface to Collected Works by American Women Writers was considered the first to introduce feminism in China.
In early 1988?Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, translated by Wu Yiyun, Ding Zhaoming and Lin Wuwei, was published by Jiangsu People's Publishing House.
In February 1989, Chinese translation of Virginia Woolfe's A Room of One's Own was published by Sanlian Bookstore.
In February 1989, Mary Eagleton's Feminist Literary Criticism was published by Hunan Art and Literature Press.
In 1988, Women's Studies Series, conducted by Li Xiaojiang, came out.
In 1989, Shang Hai Literature started a new column. i.e., Feminist Criticism, offering a forum for feminist criticism.
In 1989, Meng Yue and Dai Jinhua's Growing out of History, one of Women's Studies Series, came out.
From Nov. 23 to Nov. 26, 1992, the First Peking University International Women's Studies Conference was held at Peking University. More than 7000 people, from China, America, Britain, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and many other regions and countries attended the conference, exchanging views mainly on four topics: women in the opening up China, women and law, female fertility and health, and women and culture.
In November 1994, the seminar Chinese Women and Chinese Traditional Culture was held at Peking University, which provided a forum for how to understand and evaluate the strengths and weakness of Chinese tradition and its influence on women.
From May 16 to May 18, 1995, School of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences organized an international conference on Women and Human Rights, aiming to protect women's rights by establishing and improving the legal system on the protection of women's rights and interests,
On September 4, 1995, UN's Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing. 17,000 people attended the conference, including representatives from 197 countries and regions, 5 UN regional commissions and 16 UN organs and the Development Programme, 12 organs and organizations, observers from 26 inter-government organizations and non-government organizations. Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were adopted. The conference appealed to the governments for the protection of women's rights and adopted the slogan"human rights are women's rights".
From June 20 to June 22, 1995, the First International Seminar on Women and Literature was held at Peking University. It was jointly organized by English Department, Peking University, World Literature Journal by Foreign languages Department, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Free Forum of Literature of Tianjin Literary Federation. Betty Friedan, a leader of American women's liberation movement attended the meeting and delivered a speech entitled "A Women 's Life".
III Rise of Feminist Art in China
In 1994, Jiangsu Periodical (Vol. 7) published Xu Hong's "call to arms", Out of the Abyss: My view on Feminist Criticism, which became a declaration of feminist art criticism.
In 1995, Liao Wen's Subversion in Silence and Sedition by Stealth: Feminist Pattern in Contemporary Chinese Art brought up the concept of "feminist pattern".
In May 1995, Liao Wen organized Exhibition of Feminist Pattern in Contemporary Chinese Art.
In March 1998, about 60 female artists presented their works at Century. Women, an exhibition curated by Jia Fangzhou at National Art Museum. With a male curator, this exhibition was obviously in a male perspective, therefore revealing some problems with feminist art in China.
In 1999, Liao Wen elaborated on "feminist pattern" in Women's Art: Feminism as a Pattern, pointing out that, as a cognitive approach to the study of women's art, it was included in every aspect of the discourse patterns in feminist art criticism. She got funds for a research program form Asian Cultural Council, which enabled her to interview some influential female curators and artists in America. The interview was later developed into No More Nice Girls: Interviews with American Feminist Artists. This book offered reliable reference to Feminist art in the West by giving an introduction to these artists in the form of dialogue.
In 1989, Xiao Lu fired two shots at her installation Dialogue at the First National Modern Art Exhibition held at China Art Museum, marking the beginning of feminist art in China.
Since then feminist artists have gradually entered the art scene in China, contributing to the history of art a lot of brilliant artists like He Chengyao, Chen Lingyang, Xiang Jing, Cui Xiuwen and many others.