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University of California Press
Republican Lens: Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press / Edition 1

Republican Lens: Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press / Edition 1

by Joan Judge


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What can we learn about modern Chinese history by reading a marginalized set of materials from a widely neglected period?
In Republican Lens, Joan Judge retrieves and revalorizes the vital brand of commercial culture that arose in the period surrounding China’s 1911 Revolution. Dismissed by high-minded ideologues of the late 1910s and largely overlooked in subsequent scholarship, this commercial culture has only recently begun to be rehabilitated in mainland China. Judge uses one of its most striking, innovative—and continually mischaracterized—products, the journal Funü shibao (The women’s eastern times), as a lens onto the early years of China’s first Republic. Redeeming both the value of the medium and the significance of the era, she demonstrates the extent to which the commercial press channeled and helped constitute key epistemic and gender trends in China’s revolutionary twentieth century.

The book develops a cross-genre and inter-media method for reading the periodical press and gaining access to the complexities of the past. Drawing on the full materiality of the medium, Judge reads cover art, photographs, advertisements, and poetry, editorials, essays, and readers’ columns in conjunction with and against one another, as well as in their broader print, historical and global contexts. This yields insights into fundamental tensions that governed both the journal and the early Republic. It also highlights processes central to the arc of twentieth-century knowledge culture and social change: the valorization and scientization of the notion of “experience,” the public actualization of “Republican Ladies,” and the amalgamation of “Chinese medicine” and scientific biomedicine. It further revives the journal’s editors, authors, medical experts, artists, and, most notably, its little known female contributors. Republican Lens captures the ingenuity of a journal that captures the chaotic potentialities within China’s early Republic and its global twentieth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520284364
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 07/21/2015
Series: Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes , #30
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Joan Judge is Professor at York University. She is the author of The Precious Raft of History: The Past, the West, and the Woman Question in Chinaand Print and Politics: ‘Shibao’ and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China.

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Republican Lens

Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press

By Joan Judge


Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95993-4


Text and Method


Funü shibao exemplifies the dynamic print culture that channeled and helped constitute the cultural vitality of the late Qing and early Republican eras (figure 1.1). Fueled by the demise of Confucianism's cultural capital, the ascendance of new, foreign-derived learning, and accelerating commercialization in the treaty port city of Shanghai, this print culture traces the arc of some of the most significant political, scientific, and cultural trends of the era. The fusion of global and local sources in cover art, photographs, texts, and advertisements highlights the fertile Republican cosmopolitanism that thrived in an era when the binaries between East and West, weak and strong, national and foreign remained largely unstable. The blended discourse on medicine in articles and advertisements reveals the productive crosscurrents in this field prior to the formal division between "Chinese medicine" and scientific biomedicine in the late 1920s. The conceptually rich and technically sophisticated visuals in these materials, and in Funü shibao in particular, mark the culmination of a trend that began with illustrated journals (huabao) from the 1880s and would merge into the development of Chinese cinema in the 1920s and 1930s.

A representative of these trends, Funü shibao is also a particularly striking example of the technical and social possibilities inherent in early twentieth-century print culture. It surpassed many contemporary periodicals in the variety of its texts, the quantity and quality of its images, and the engagement of its broad community of female and male readers and writers. The journal's distinctiveness can be attributed to the technological virtuosity of its publisher, the Shibao Office, the innovations of its activist editor, Bao Tianxiao, and the caliber of its contributors.

Di Baoxian (Chuqing, Pingzi, 1872–1941) headed the Shibao print conglomerate and its publishing arm, the Youzheng shuju (Youzheng Book Company). A savvy cultural entrepreneur, Di founded the highly successful Shanghai daily newspaper Shibao (the Eastern Times) in 1904. He was also one of the first publishers to grasp the potential commercial ramifications of respectable women's new publicness: in founding Funü shibao he launched the earliest Chinese newspaper supplement dedicated to women. Di naturally turned to Bao Tianxiao for assistance in managing the journal. Bao had served as a talented editor of Shibao from 1906 and of Di's fiction journal Xiaoshuo shibao (the Fiction Eastern Times) from 1909. Well connected in the worlds of journalism and literature, Bao had also spent several years teaching young women both privately and in girls' schools in Suzhou, Shandong, and Shanghai from the turn of the century. His editorial skill, educational experience, and social and literary connections, together with the Youzheng Book Company's financial and technical resources, helped make Funü shibao an exceptional print product.


Materiality. Funü shibao is a distinctly handsome, user-friendly journal between 114 and 146 pages in length and about seven and a quarter by ten and a quarter inches in size. The first issue was printed on June 11, 1911. Announced as a monthly, the journal could be more accurately described as bimonthly or seasonal. (See Appendix A for dates of individual issues.) Publication was erratic (perhaps a consequence of dodging President Yuan Shikai's [1859–1916] censors at sensitive political moments), something for which Bao apologized to his readers several times. Three issues appeared before the October 10, 1911, Revolution, and five before the abdication of the Qing emperor on February 12, 1912. The remaining sixteen issues covered the early Republican period. Five issues overlapped with the early New Culture movement, which began with the founding of Chen Duxiu's (1879–1942) journal Qingnian zazhi (Youth Magazine) on September 15, 1915. There was a long hiatus between issue 17 (November 1, 1915) and issue 18 (June 1916). Bao Tianxiao announced that the eighteenth issue, which appeared immediately after Yuan Shikai's death on June 5, 1916, marked a new phase in the journal's history. Two more issues appeared in 1916 and the last issue in April 1917.

The precise source of funding for Funü shibao remains obscure, but most of the capital seems to have been generated by the Shibao Office's Youzheng Book Company. Youzheng's primary mandate was to produce print material related to the Chinese fine arts: catalogs, magazines, and reproductions of paintings and rubbings. Di Baoxian possibly founded journals like Funü shibao and even his flagship newspaper Shibao to help finance these art publications. In turn, he was able to use the photographic technologies developed to reproduce fine arts materials to heighten the aesthetic quality and salability of the journals. Youzheng's extensive list also included photography albums, textbooks, and fiction, all of which further generated capital used to operate the print empire. The publishing house received an added bonus shortly after Funü shibao was founded. When the popular fiction writer Zeng Mengpu (Zeng Pu, 1871–1935) was appointed to a post in the Republican government, he handed his full list of manuscripts over to the Youzheng Book Company to market.

Youzheng's capital was used to remunerate and thus encourage contributions to Funü shibao. Submissions over one thousand characters could earn an author three yuan, while a shorter piece of writing could earn four jiao — approximately the price of one issue of the journal. Youzheng books were also awarded as prizes to winners of Funü shibao's ongoing essay competitions. Individuals who submitted their photographs to the journal would be rewarded with free copies of the journal: anywhere from one issue to a full year's subscription. When Bao Tianxiao invited women to send in their paintings for the cover of the journal in its penultimate issue, he offered them ten, six, or four yuan depending on the quality of their art.

Advertisements also provided some of Funü shibao's revenue. While most of the ads in the journal were for Youzheng's various print products, they also included medical advertisements and advertisements for a variety of personal products from soap to eyeglasses. These ads constituted about 16 percent of each issue, averaging about twenty advertisements per issue. The cost of advertising was 10 yuan for half a page and 20 yuan for a full page (22 yuan after issue 18), and slightly more if the advertisement appeared in a key position such as inside the front cover. Advertising fees for an issue with the lowest number of advertisements would have yielded about 200 yuan, which would have barely off set the salaries of editors and technicians and other production expenses.

Sales and subscriptions also helped finance the journal. Funü shibao was relatively expensive, as were all of the periodicals published by the Youzheng Book Company, including Funü shibao 's predecessor the Fiction Eastern Times (1909–14), a short-lived Buddhist journal Foxue congbao (Buddhist Miscellany, 1912–14), and the entertainment magazine Yuxing (Entertainment, 1914–17). The first seventeen issues of Funü shibao cost four jiao (four jiao, five fen with postage), and the later issues four jiao, two fen. The annual subscription rate increased from three yuan, five jiao for ten issues before issue 18 to four yuan, two jiao for issues 18 through 21. This was more expensive than contemporary textbooks for girls, which cost between two and three jiao. 16 It was also more costly than other contemporary women's journals such as Shenzhou nübao (Shenzhou Women's Journal, 1912–13), which cost three jiao, three fen with postage for each issue, and Funü zazhi (Ladies' Journal), which would become Funü shibao 's prime imitator and competitor when it was founded in 1915 and which cost two yuan, four jiao for an annual subscription. Funü shibao was also significantly more expensive than the woodblock materials that continued to be printed and distributed in the hinterland in this period. Popular romances sold for as little as five fen. Only long and finely produced works of fiction approached the price of one issue of Funü shibao.

Despite its relatively high cost, Funü shibao also had an unusually high circulation for this period, estimated at six thousand to seven thousand copies per issue. This was much higher than the print runs of pre-1911 women's journals, estimated to be no more than several hundred copies. Given the Chinese practice of passing newspapers and journals from reader to reader, oft en selling them for a trifle less at each transfer until they were too ragged to be legible, the total number of Funü shibao readers could have been as large as 140,000.

These readers who either subscribed to or received secondhand copies of Funü shibao were from various parts of China. While the journal was published in Shanghai and was very much a product of that city, its purview extended beyond the urban metropolis. This extra urban focus reflected the nature of Shanghai's population — some five-sixths of the city's inhabitants came from elsewhere. While the function of much of the print matter published in Shanghai in this period was to teach immigrants how to be urbanites, in the case of Funü shibao the journal gave urbanites the opportunity to discuss the customs and economies of their native places. At least nine such articles were published on one of the essay contest themes, "Women's Occupations in All Regions" (Gedi funü zhi zhiye), for example. Entries discussed women's work in different locales in the Shanghai region such as Pudong, Jiading, Nantong, Suzhou, and Xidi, but also in villages in the more distant provinces of Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, and Hubei.

Funü shibao reached out to a national audience through its distribution network. It was disseminated in over thirty centers in Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu, and some ten provincial capitals. Contributions to numerous sections of the journal, in addition to the essay contest entries noted above, document a readership that extended from the Shanghai area to Yunnan, Wuhan, Fujian, Hubei, Beijing, and Guangdong, to give just a few examples. Advertisements published in the journal further suggest a geographically extended readership. Pharmaceutical companies announced that, in addition to being available for purchase in Shanghai, their products could be mail ordered or bought at branch pharmacies from Zhenjiang in Jiangsu Province to Chongqing in Sichuan Province.

These far-flung readers of Funü shibao were treated to a veritable print emporium (zahuo dian). Heterogeneous and heteroglossic, the journal offered readers a full panoply of visual and textual goods that ranged across genres, registers, and styles. As indicated in the Introduction, these included cover art, photographs, editor's, readers', and essay contest columns, together with a literary section, "Wenyuan" (Literary garden) that featured poems (shi) and lyrics (ci). The journal also included poetry talks (shihua), translated and original works of fiction and foreign biography, biographies of contemporary Chinese women, practical instruction for sewing and cooking, travel accounts, short essays, jottings, miscellaneous reflections (zazu), and advertisements. While there were some precious and rarified goods among this multifarious content (advertisements for luxury gems, elegant poems), Funü shibao's primary mandate, like that of other publications in the general interest genre, was to offer products that were socially relevant and "essential to the conduct of everyday life" (rensheng riyong bixu zhi pin).

Even the fiction included in Funü shibao was chosen for its social relevance. Featured in every issue of the journal, as it was in most periodicals and mainstream newspapers of the period, the fiction in Funü shibao was in keeping with trends in serialized fiction writing at this time. Much of it was translated, all of it was in the literary language, and its narrative mode was direct observation rather than self-expression, subjectivity, or experimentation. Only genres of fiction related to the uplift of women appear in the journal, however, specifically family novels (jiating xiaoshuo) and educational novels (jiaoyu xiaoshuo) rather than romantic, detective, or martial arts novels. Overall, these works were not one of the journal's key features. Bao rarely remarked on them in his editorial column, and fiction was low on his list of solicited materials, perhaps because he could anticipate few submissions from women. His literary energies were clearly focused elsewhere, on the several fiction magazines that he edited.

While the nonliterary narrative content of the journal, like the fiction, was generally written in some form of classical Chinese, it included a diverse mix of linguistic registers. A prime example of the plurality of styles circulating in the late 1910s, the prose writing in Funü shibao ranges from modes of literary to forms of vernacular (qianwen, baihua) writing. Most of this prose was a variation on the "new style" (xin wenti) or newspaper style current in the periodical press in the early twentieth century. A linguistic hybrid, this style was neither speech based like the vernacular nor as arcane as prior forms of classical writing. It included Japanese-origin vocabulary, selected grammatical innovations, and a free admixture of elements of various classical styles, including ancient-style prose (guwen) and parallel prose (pianwen). While this mix provoked the New Culture critique that early Republican writing was "half classical but not vernacular" (banwen bu bai), it reflects the demands that a rapidly changing cultural context placed on written expression. The more arcane elements of this new style are a testimony to the continuing vitality of the classical language with which authors continued to write "the new." At the same time, experiments with more straightforward modes of expression manifest the desire of early Republican authors to accommodate an expanding readership with varied levels of linguistic ability.

A woman writer, Zhu Huizhen, urges such accommodation in her contribution to the readers' column in issue 3 of the journal. She argues that the writing in the journal is too refined given that few of her two million female compatriots are literate, fewer still literate enough to read books, and fewer still literate enough to read books written in difficult prose. Zhu therefore recommends establishing a vernacular column that will be written in "easy to understand" (qianjin) prose and supplemented with simple illustrations. Subsequent issues of the journal did include some writing in this more accessible style.

This simpler style was not foreign to Bao Tianxiao. He had published two journals in the vernacular in Suzhou in the first years of the century, Lixue yibian (Compendium of Translations to Encourage Learning) and Suzhou baihua bao (Suzhou Vernacular Journal).37 He seems to have consciously chosen not to use the vernacular in Funü shibao, however — he neither wrote his editorial column in demotic prose nor called on authors to use it — perhaps because of the journal's projected genteel audience. He returned to vernacular publishing near the end of Funü shibao's print run, however, at precisely the moment that Hu Shi (1891–1962) was credited — mistakenly, according to Bao — with launching the vernacular movement in China. In early 1917, just months before the last issue of Funü shibao appeared, Bao founded the exclusively vernacular Xiaoshuo huabao (Illustrated Fiction). Perhaps an admission of his frustration with Funü shibao's ability to fully reach its targeted audience, Illustrated Fiction appealed to the same demographic as Funü shibao — cultured women (guixiu) — together with students, merchants, and workers.

The cultured women who wrote and read poetry in Funü shibao were, however, relatively competent in the literary language. The majority of the lyrical entries published in the journal were poems (shi) in the ancient rather than the recent style (jinti shi), although some women expressed appreciation for new poetry. These ancient-style poems were composed of five- or seven-character verses with no fixed tonal pattern or prescribed central couplet of parallelism. Some were in the Tong Guang style (Tong Guang ti), the most influential of the three prominent schools of shi from the 1890s to the 1920s. A leading figure in Funü shibao, Zhang Mojun (Zhaohan, 1884–1965), who published a number of poems in the journal, was instructed by major poets in this school, including Chen Sanli (1853–1937) and Chen Yan (1856–1937). Zhang later distinguished herself from members of this school, however, by joining the revolutionary Nanshe (Southern Society) and serving the new Republic. In addition to shi, women also published song lyrics in particular melodies in the journal.


Excerpted from Republican Lens by Joan Judge. Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: Republican Lens 1

1 Text and Method 15

2 Republican Ladies 49

3 Everyday Experience 79

4 Public Bodies 115

5 Practical Talent 149

6 Liminal Sexualities 176

Conclusion: Aerial Aspirations 212

Appendix A Funü shibao Issue Dates 229

Appendix B Chinese and Japanese Characters for Names and Terms 230

Abbreviations 248

Notes 249

Bibliography 299

Index 333

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