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Qiu Jin
(8 November 1875 - 15 July 1907) China

Qiu Jin

Anti-Manchu revolutionary, poetess


Qiu Jin (also translitterated: Ch'iu Chin) was a Chinese revolutionary, feminist, and writer. Her courtesy names are Xuanqing and Jingxiong. Her sobriquet name is Jianhu Nüxia which, when translated literally into English, means "Woman Knight of Mirror Lake". Qiu was executed after a failed uprising against the Qing dynasty, and she is considered a national heroine in China.

Born in Xiamen, Fujian, Qiu grew up in her ancestral home, Shanyin Village, Shaoxing, Zhejiang. During an unhappy marriage, Qiu came into contact with new ideas. She became a member of the Triads, who at the time advocated the overthrow of the Qing and restoration of Han Chinese governance.

Her family name means "autumn," her personal name "jade;" Qiu Jin's naming was probably the last time this modern-era Chinese heroine followed convention. Unusually for a girl born in the mid-1870s, Qiu Jin received an excellent literary education courtesy of her scholarly parents. Yet it is reported that her mother gave up trying to teach her sewing and embroidery, for her determined daughter preferred archery and martial arts novels.

At eighteen Qiu Jin was married by arrangement to a Circuit Commissioner in the capital Beijing, and she bore him two children. However she was unhappy with married life, forging an identity and life separate to that of her husband; sword-fighting, riding horses and drinking wine like a hero from a ying xiong (hero) novel. To the embarrassment of her husband she would appear in public wearing Western men's clothing, and was a forceful proponent of Western ideas in an era where women didn't have any, establishing a girl's school and lecturing against foot-binding.

In 1904 and after thirteen years of marriage, Qiu Jin took the unthinkable step of leaving her husband and children for Japan, writing the following poem during the ocean crossing:

...Unstrained wine never quenches the tears of a patriot;
A country's salvation relies on exceptional genius.
I pledge the spilled blood from a hundred thousand skulls
To restore the universe with all our strength.

Qiu JinIn Japan Qiu Jin's first action was to unbind her feet, an extremely painful, bloody act she would later describe in Stories of the Jingwei Bird (1905-07). In 1903, she decided to travel overseas and study in Japan, leaving her two children behind. She initially entered a Japanese language school in Surugadai, but later transferred to the Girls' Practical School in Kojimachi, run by Shimoda Utako. Qiu was fond of martial arts, and she was known by her acquaintances for wearing Western male dress and for her nationalist, anti-Manchu ideology. She joined the anti-Qing society Guangfuhui, led by Cai Yuanpei, which in 1905 joined together with a variety of overseas Chinese revolutionary groups to form the Tongmenghui, led by Sun Yat-sen.

One of a group of revolutionaries abroad, Qiu participated in the plans for the revolution to come, the first woman to join the republican party Ko Ming Tang, and wrote for revolutionary journals on the need to educate and emancipate Chinese women. However under pressure from a fearful Qing Government, the activities of political exiles were restricted by Japan. The time for theory and debate had come to an end - in 1906 Qiu Jin resolved to return home.

Now a leader in the Restoration Society, whose declared aim was the overthrow of the corrupt Qing Dynasty, Qiu established its chapter in Shanghai, overtly taking a series of teaching positions and starting the Chinese Women's News magazine. Formerly a revolutionary of ideas, Qiu Jin joined others, including her cousin Xu Xilin, in planning for an active, armed revolution, learning to make explosives and even starting a clandestine bomb factory. Still hidden from official suspicion, as a school principal she trained not only her students but local people as an army.

Strive for women power
We women love our freedom
Raise a cup of wine to our efforts for freedom
May heaven bestow equality on men and women
We will rise in fight, yes! Drag ourselves up!
Old customs were deeply humiliating:
Young girls were actually mated like cows
New light dawns ina time of illustrious culture
Man's desire to stand alone, supreme, to enslave us
Underlings must be torn up by the roots...

Long-made plans for a nationwide uprising on July 19, 1907 were disrupted by the premature action of a lone revolutionary cell several weeks earlier, prompting a swift government retaliation. In warning, Qiu sent a message to her cousin Xu, who decided to act before government troops could seize him, assassinating the governor of Anhui. He was sentenced to death by the cutting out of his heart.

Qiu Jin
Her wax image at the Shaoxing museum

Hearing this news on July 9 in Shaoxing, Qiu and her students discussed various plans of action but came to none, and when soldiers entered the city on July 12 she refused to flee, and was arrested with six others. Remaining silent even under torture, she was convicted on the evidence of two of her poems. During her trial, Qiu composed what is now her most famous work - her death poem:

"Autumn rain, autumn wind; my heart dies of sorrow."

Qiu Jin was sentenced to death and executed July 15, 1907. Receiving initially an ignominious burial, upon the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty five years later, Qiu Jin was reburied under the oversight of Sun Yat-sen, the first President of the Republic of China, acknowledged officially as the hero she had always sought to be.

The final line of her epitaph reads:

"Not only under Southern Sung (Song Dynasty) were heroes lightly put to death ...
all shall esteem (and) remember in their hearts her fiery heroism."

Qiu was immortalised in the Republic of China's popular consciousness and literature after her death. She is now buried beside West Lake in Hangzhou. The People's Republic of China established a museum for her in Shaoxing, named after Qiu Jin's Former Residence .


Source: From an aticle by John-Paul Gillespie at http://ezinearticles.com/ - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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