Crimson Flooding into the River

Just a short stay at the Capital
But it is already the mid autumn festival
Chrysanthemums infect the landscape
Fall is making its mark
The infernal isolation has become unbearable here
All eight years of it make me long for my home
It is the bitter guile of them forcing us women into femininity
We cannot win!
Despite our ability, men hold the highest rank
But while our hearts are pure, those of men are rank
My insides are afire in anger at such an outrage
How could vile men claim to know who I am?
Heroism is borne out of this kind of torment
To think that so putrid a society can provide no camaraderie
Brings me to tears!

— Qiu Jin

Qiu Jin (Jianhu Nüxia) fought for women’s rights during the late Qing Dynasty, demanding an end to the subjugation of women, including arranged marriage and footbinding. Together with poet Xu Zihua, she founded a feminist newspaper called “China Women’s News” in 1906. When interrogated about her revolutionary activities, she remained silent. When given a brush to write a confession, she wrote her surname, Qiu, followed by six other characters: Qiu yu qiu feng chou sha ren (Autumn rain and autumn wind, such eviscerating, life-smothering sorrow!). On July 15, 1907, at the age of 32, Qiu Jin was beheaded for fomenting a revolution against the government.

[Research note: see Kang-i Sun, Haun Sassy, Charles Yim-tze Kwong, Women Writers of Traditional China: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticisim (Stanford University Press, 1999): 634.]

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