Monday, 2 May 2011

Qiu Jin 秋瑾, China’s first known human rights crusader for women


                                       Qui Jin in Japanese costume
                                 when studying at Yokohama (1904-1906)

Qiu Jin (1875-1907) was a maiden never shied away from injustice, a front runner for human rights, especially for the women folk during those tumultuous years. I admired her for her intelligence, her daring defiance against the rotting, disgusting feudal system that harmed China drastically since many dynasty changes centuries ago. Qui Jin was known as a vociferous writer and poet, a feminist fighter against injustice towards women folks, an educationist principal founder of a school for girls, an advocate for freedom and human rights that went against the then despotic Qing Dynasty, a revolutionary and an eloquent orator.

Qui Jin was born in Xiamen, Fujian Porvince though her parents hailed from their ancestral city of Shaoxing, in Zhejiang Province, where she grew up. In 1896 she married Wang Ding Jin at her father’s order. After the birth of her son and a daughter, and the death of her father, she followed her husband and moved to Beijing where her husband assumed an official post with the local government in 1902. Her desire for further education grew stronger by the day and in 1904 May she left for Japan to learn about Western styled culture, education system and democracy, leaving behind her children and her husband. She was self funded in her pursuit of knowledge (Of course including Japanese language) by selling some jewellery and gold chains her parents gave her for her wedding. No sooner she joined as a member some triads actively with an aspiration to overthrow the corrupted Qing Empire that had ruled China draconically for three centuries.  In 1905 she left for home briefly and returned to Japan in the month July; by August 1905 she joined the newly founded TongMengHui 同盟会, a clandestine society led by Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Qui Jin left Japan in 1906 February in disgust of a new ruling by Japanese government to enhance surveillance over foreign students and to curb their activities.

She began her underground movements swiftly by organizing meetings and recruiting young citizens so as to inculcate them with modern democracy, Western administration of government, and freedom from oppression by authoritarian rulers. She also advocated the abolishment of binding girls’ feet as young as 5 years old.  The practice of which would result the feet becoming small but the person would be crippled and would walk with a limp. Sadly the excruciating pain inducement of the feet binding remained until the 1940s. The places where she was active in carrying out her ambitious project were Shanghai, HangZhou and Shaoxing in the Zhejang Provincial areas.

A jade-white statue erected in memory of Qui Jin


During a raid on her society building by the Qing Imperial army, some of her comrades were arrested, interrogated and subsequently executed. Her name was mentioned and brought to the attention of the authority. She was fore-warned but she refused to go into hiding as she believed that there should be blood shed for an epoch changing revolution. Eventually Qui Jin was rounded up at her school together with eight others. There was one young man drown in his escape from pursuing soldiers, and another killed while falling off from the roof. Qui Jin was standing on the roof but the raiding party was given order not to shoot any woman folk. Instead she was caught alive but she denied any wrong doing. The next day she was brought outside the perimeter of the Shaoxing county jail in the wee hours. With her hands tied at the back, she was summarily beheaded. Before her death she asked for a brush, a piece of paper and some painting ink. She wrote the first line of a famous poem of seven words that cast long lingering sad overtures till this day: Autumn wind and autumn rain often bring forth unbearable sorrow  秋風秋雨愁煞人.  Knowing very well she could not escape the ill-fate she was too distraught to complete the poem. She died at 31 year old.

Qui Jin died as a heroine and a martyr for her ideology. Her death was not gone wasted as it inspired more young Chinese to continue their struggle for a freed nation from the draconian rule of the Manchu regime. She was a revolutionary alright but her fight was for a challenge to return to Chinese administration from the rule of a suppressive border indigenous tribe-The Manchurians. The war she fought was different from that fought between Kuomintang and the communist party of China; hers was one that was greater, more meaningful, and more stunning, one that changed China drastically.


                                   Monumental Statue of Qui Jin at the side of
                                            West Lake, HangZhou
                                        
Dr Sun Yat-Sen paid respect to Qui Jin at her gravesite at the shore of West Lake, HangZhou in December 1912, one year after his success in overthrowing the Qing Empire and led China into a new era. Sun Yat-Sen unreservedly called Qui Jin a national heroine, 巾帼英雄. Sadly in 1965 her grave was vandalized and destroyed with malice by the over zealous red guards of China during the Cultural Revolution. Fortunately her remains were saved and reburied a short distance away at one end of a bridge, at the West Lake shore, with a jade-white statue erected in her honor in 1981. A plaque bearing Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s manuscript engraved with the words: National Heroine巾帼英雄 was placed at the pedestal of the statue. About the same time a memorial museum was built in honour Qui Jin in Shaoxing city.

                                      Dr Sun Yat-Sen ( 1866-1925 )孫中山
                                            Father of Modern China國父

 
After her death at the tender age of 31, there were countless dramas, movies, and literary writings taken place to highlight her struggles and to remember her eternally. Her demise sent a wake up call to modern Chinese, particularly to women folks not to foresake their chance for letter living, and never bow to nefarious pressure. Qui Jin remained one of the greatest ladies of modern China since 1900. Her feat was no ordinary task with her fearless guts and bold ambition to realize a modern era China. Till this day, Chinese women folks revered Qui Jin as one gallant feminist who liberated them from the ugly clutches of feudal oppression for centuries.
  
Alan CY Kok


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