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HRA8 Chinese Women's Magazines

Chinese Women's Magazines in the Late Qing and Early Republican Period

Coordination: Barbara Mittler


Project Website

Project Website

This HRA database is linked to a collaborative project funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the German Humboldt Foundation. The primary objective of the project is to restore complexity to early-twentieth-century Chinese history by liberating that history from its own reductive discourses on the failings of tradition and the promise of modernity. Our instrument and object of investigation is the popular press, a new medium that dominated the contemporary print market and became one of the prime sites for the dissemination of knowledge and the production of culture. In particular, our focus is on four seminal women's or gendered journals—a key genre of the popular media—published between 1904 and 1937. They include Nüzi shijie (女子世界, Women’s World, 1904-7), Funü shibao (婦女時報, The Women’s Eastern Times, 1911-17), Funü zazhi (婦女雜誌, The Ladies’ Journal, 1915-31), and Linglong (玲瓏, Elegance, 1931-37).

Historicizing and contextualizing this new medium, our methodological approach to these materials combines “horizontal” and “vertical” readings of the journals. Horizontal readings restore integrity and materiality to the popular press by approximating the ways journals were read in their own day, not as repositories of disembodied and disconnected articles, images, and advertisements but as organic, physical texts embedded within specific cultural contexts. Vertical readings historicize the contents of the popular press over the first three decades of the twentieth century as the medium shifted from more intellectual, politically driven journalism, to increasingly commercialized, market-driven journalism. We trace across journals and over time the emergence of new topics such as hygiene, new social categories such as the “new woman,” and new genres such as free-verse poetry. We are, however, particularly attentive to the persistence of established cultural forms, and to the myriad ways new concepts and narrative devices merged with and recycled the old.

The database is central to the achievement of the project’s intellectual and methodological aims. Comprehensive in scope, it provides richly graphic scans of or links to digitized versions of the four journals that are the focus of our study, together with comprehensive metadata on the content of the journals—including discursive essays, photographs, advertisements, fiction, and poetry—and on their editors, journalists, and contributors.

Project Status

Current, with Cluster funding and external funding.

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Launched on May 14, 2011