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Day 2 9:30 Panel 10

Gender and Private Life

Coleridge Room

Zhou Lin; Yang Long; Wu Shuang

Zhou Lin,

Sichuan University, Year 2 Master in Chinese Modern and Contemporary Literature

The Structure of Gender Power And Its Generative Mechanism Behind the Code Vehicle——A Case Study of Lao She’s Rickshaw Boy, Lv Heruo’s the Ox-Cart, Wang Zhenhe’s the Ox-Cart For Dowry

Abstract: In the different time and space of China's modernization process in the 20th century, Lao She’s Rickshaw Boy, Lv Heruo’s the Ox-Cart, Wang Zhenhe’s the Ox-Cart For Dowry presented the structure of gender power in family and society according to the core code Vehicle. As the core code of this literary field, Vehicle not only meant the physical means of transportation, but also referred to the feminine men in the underclass and the masculine women materialized by the patriarchal system. Beneath the surface of male and female "inversion of Yin and Yang " relationship was the traditional patriarchal structure of gender power in which men oppressed women. Combined with the feudal restriction of traditional patriarchal culture, class oppression of social class status and economic oppression of capitalist economic formation which took the property as core, the generative mechanism of the structure of gender power assumed the appearance of feminine men and masculine women, consolidated the essential situation that masculine women were oppressed by feminine men further according to the multiple metaphors of vehicles.

Yang Long,

University of Oxford, Year 1 PhD in Oriental Studies


Marriage, Rural Cadres, and Adulterous Liaisons in Mao's China, 1962-1966"

In response to Mao Zedong’s repeated emphasis on the lack of effective leadership at the grassroots level, which he blamed for the catastrophic outcomes of the Great Leap Forward (1959-61), the oft-neglected Socialist Education Movement (also known as “the Four Cleanups”) was initiated in October 1962 and swept across China, concluding in 1966 with the onset of the Cultural Revolution. The campaign had initially attempted to address the issue of embezzlement at the grassroots level and quickly gave rise to radical political postures such as anti-superstition and anti-decadence. An enormous number of work teams composed mainly of government employees at the county level and above, public institution staff, and university students were sent to rural areas where they thoroughly scrutinized the adulterous liaisons of the rural cadres and punished them according to Party discipline. The Four Cleanups campaign witnessed the work teams’ unprecedented efforts to expose and denounce cadres’ extramarital relationships. In the context of the wider history of marriage, this article gives insights into how villagers and rural cadres managed to live through these radical political practices and how they contributed to the redefinition of marriage and sex. The research rests on three types of previously unexamined materials: (1) official documents in the public domain, (2) selectively declassified Party journals, and (3) personal dossiers from two local archives located in eastern Hebei province. A close look at the ways in which sex, marriage, and fidelity were negotiated in private and in the public sphere suggests that the work teams routinely used the settlement of cases of adultery as an opportunity to elaborate and attempt to enforce normative expectations about cadres’ family relationships, virtuous behavior, and the role of the Party as the supreme arbiter of morality and sole source of punishment. In line with the latest revisionist accounts of Maoist China, I investigate why the CCP viewed the involvement in extramarital relationships as a sign of political corruption and how the CCP’s efforts to redefine marriage as a revolutionary dedication to emotional companionship changed the sociopolitical meanings of adultery in Mao’s China.

Wu Shuang,

Joint PhD in History at King's College London and The University of Hong Kong


Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Living Space on Chinese Motherhood, 1940s-80s


In the decade following the end of the Second World War, Hong Kong’s population went from 600,000 to around 2.5 million. Between the late 1940s and 1970s, it was estimated that 40% of the colony’s population growth was the result of migration, with the majority of new arrivals coming from the PRC. This influx of refugees led to a drastic increase in the number of unhygienic squatter settlements and makeshift homes. After the Shek Kip Mei fire on Christmas Eve 1953, the colonial government decided to implement a systematic resettlement strategy, including the implementation of numerous public housing programmes and facilities. One group of migrants profoundly affected by these changes were mothers. Chinese societies remained distinctly gendered, with women presiding over the domestic space. Improvised settlements left mothers battling practical challenges. In order to integrate, mothers were also required to forge new networks among their neighbours; vital sources or support and mothering knowledge. Information on contraceptives, postpartum care and even partnership in planning household finances was often only available through these sources. Random allocation of housing by the government led to the destruction and reshaping of these networks. Community estates eventually brought wives and mothers together – in the form of business, friendship, or the enjoyment of illicit pleasures like Mahjong – and helped form individual identities within a community. The majority of existing scholarship on motherhood in China focuses either on the relationship between mother and daughter, or on the lives of educated working mothers. This paper examines the role of migrant Chinese mothers in Hong Kong, a marginalised, frequently illiterate group, often absent from official documentation. As such, this research also reflects on the value of oral history in uncovering hidden histories of migration, ethnicity, community and family.

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