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Modern Chinese Expectations About Women’s Lives Essay


The passage chosen for analysis is from Ding Ling’s narrative know as ‘When I was in Xia Village”

“Do you hate Cia Dabao” I can’t say that I hate him. I just feel now that I’m someone who’s diseased. It’s a fact that I was abused by a large number of Jap devils. I’m unclean, and with such a black mark, I don’t expect any good fortune to come my way.” (Ling 314)

This passage occurs towards the end of the story when the protagonist meets with Zhenzhen for the second last time. The narrator is a member of the Communist Party and was sent to Xia Village as part of her job assignment. The narrator finds the people of the village to be too judgmental, conservative and hostile to deviants. She becomes friends with Zhenzhen who is now an outcast.

She had been abused by several Japanese soldiers and contracted a disease from the encounters. The villagers blame her for the rapes and claim that she is too tainted for marriage. However, one man called Cia Dabao disregards other people’s opinions about Zhenzhen and asks her to marry him. Zhenzhen rejects the proposal and decides to leave the village since her ‘uncleanliness’ would only cause her misfortune.

One should note that the book was written during the era of the Fourth Movement, in which Chinese citizens sought to fight against freedom and inequality. As a result, female writers echoed these sentiments through their lens. In this passage, the subject is a tough woman who encounters a barrier that is not new to her life.

She has undergone several difficult ordeals that have strengthened her resolve and made her a force to reckon with. It should be noted that such a depiction of women was not uncommon in this era. Many female writers empowered their protagonists and allowed them to participate in various aspects of Chinese social and political life.

It is also interesting to note that men’s depiction in this passage and book is neither demonized nor praised. Although women in this era were bent on fighting inequality and other evils of the Confusion era, they could not imagine a society without men. This caused them to obliterate men’s roles in their books.

Ding Ling was a reputable author who did not want to debase men’s place at the expense of female empowerment. As a consequence, she focused on the female heroines who were neither too far removed from their male counterparts nor overly reliant on them. Her work was an attempt at negotiating past and present ideas harmoniously in one aspect of literature (Fogel 35).

Perhaps one of the most outstanding themes that emerge from this passage is the deep sisterhood between the narrator and Zhenzhen. The two individuals are both outsiders; the narrator fits this label more accurately as she had never visited Xia Village before.

However, Shenzhen had become an outsider owing to an encounter that she had little control over. These two women found unity in alienation. Their friendship became stronger because they curved their own identities.

Zhenzhen was brave enough to leave a society that could only associate her with the Japanese rapes, and this was her way of seeking independence. In a society where women were rarely understood, the author decided to empower her victim with a different outlet. Zhenzhen was shunned for something that she did not do; instead of resigning to her fate, she chose to leave Xia village. This was Ding Ling’s way of proving that a woman has a mind of her own.

The second passage for analysis is derived from Xun Lu’s writing in “Diary of a Madman.”

“I can see her now- such a lovable and helpless little thing, only five at the time. Mother couldn’t stop crying, but he urged her to stop, probably because he’d eaten sister’s flesh himself and hearing mother cry over her like that shamed him” (Xun 40)

The passage also comes at the end of the short story when the mad man has realized that he cannot trust anyone. The protagonist of the story has been paranoid about cannibalism in his society, but he soon realizes that even his brother has done it. The act is symbolism for self-destructive policies like Confucianism.

This passage is useful in feminist studies because it carefully illustrates a woman’s place in that era. The author rarely mentioned women in the narrative. However, when he did, it was under dire circumstances. The mother of the madman stood helplessly as her son ate up his small brother.

The author wanted to illustrate that Confucianism destroyed its weakest citizens, who consisted of women and children. Therefore, traditional Chinese society treated women like second class citizens. However, since Lu Xun fought against Confucian principles, then it may be assumed that he wanted to fight the oppressive regime that perpetuated such inequalities (Widmer & Wang 104).

On the flipside, it may be stated that this author only talked about these matters in his work but did not serve as an example. Lu married a stranger who was betrothed to him. If he cared about women’s oppression, then he would not have contributed towards their silencing. Additionally, even the fact that his story was filled with male characters and only a handful of female ones illustrates that feminism was not his primary concern.

Works Cited

Ding, Ling. I Myself am A Woman: Selected Writings of Ding Ling. Trans. Tani E. Barlow and Gary J. Bjorge. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989

Fogel, Joshua. Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, 1850-1950. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989.

Widmer, Ellen and Wang, Der-wei David. From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China. Harvard University Press, 1993

Xun, Lu. Diary of a madman. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1990. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 12). Modern Chinese Expectations About Women’s Lives. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/modern-chinese-expectations-about-womens-lives/

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"Modern Chinese Expectations About Women’s Lives." IvyPanda, 12 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/modern-chinese-expectations-about-womens-lives/.

1. IvyPanda. "Modern Chinese Expectations About Women’s Lives." March 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/modern-chinese-expectations-about-womens-lives/.


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IvyPanda. "Modern Chinese Expectations About Women’s Lives." March 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/modern-chinese-expectations-about-womens-lives/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Modern Chinese Expectations About Women’s Lives." March 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/modern-chinese-expectations-about-womens-lives/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Modern Chinese Expectations About Women’s Lives'. 12 March.

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