The Chinese Human Rights Reader:

7. First Speech of Miss Xu Yucheng from Jinkui to the Women’s World (1907)

Xu Yucheng

We know little about Xu Yucheng other than what she tells us in this essay, a speech published in the magazine Zhongguo xin nüjie zazhi [China New Woman’s Magazine]. The magazine, which was published by Chinese students in Tokyo, came out with six issues in 1907 before it was closed down. The magazine was less radical than many of the other magazines on women’s issues and women’s rights put out at the time, such as Qiu Jin’s Zhongguo nübao. Its closure by the Japanese police, though, was prompted by an article on political assassinations as a method to promote revolution. Like many others at the time, the magazine demanded equality between the sexes and advocated equal rights for women. Xu was one of a number of authors who used the language of rights to advocate the liberation of women. She sees the right to freedom as central to women’s ability to respect themselves, and believes that the right to freedom, in turn, rests on possessing what she calls “the qualifications for freedom.” One possesses these qualifications only when one knows that in seeking freedom for oneself one must also respect the freedom of others; only this can be called true freedom. To depend upon others, a fate women were particularly prone to, would imply a degrading and slave-like existence without self-respect and honor. In light of the attacks that rights thinkers will subsequently level at Confucianism, it is notable that Xu quotes Confucius quite favorably. Other women were more radical and more political than Xu; the anarchist He Zhen, for example, advocated a more thorough going social revolution as the best path to realizing women’s freedom.

Last updated: 11/30/01
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