In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century many Han Chinese, under the leadership of Sun Yatsen (1866-1925) and others sought to overthrow the Manchu Qing dynasty. This movement culminated in the Revolution which began in October 1911 and ultimately deposed the Qing imperial household, permitting the establishment of a republican government. As the Revolution progressed, the commercial popular print business, through inexpensive lithographs and woodblock prints, provided citizens with illustrations of important events in the Revolution, as well as portraits of male and female participants. Modern commentary on these prints identifies the subjects depicted, but neglects the artistic elements. To fill this gap, this study examines the artistic aspects of these prints and reveals that the source of the compositional formats lies in well-established formulae, some of which go back to the eighteenth century. For specific portraits of male participants in particular, print designers often relied on current photographs, thus melding old and new. For representations of female military participants, print designers, mostly eschewing photographs of them, provided imaginary portraits, some of which are based on depictions of anonymous women, again, already a part of the print legacy. The prints frequently feature two military women famous at the time, one real (Cao Daoxin) and one fictional (Xu Wuying); this essay explains how and why images of them were so widespread in the popular print media.
Hanchao LuThe Birth of a Republic: Francis Stafford’s Photographs of China’s 1911 Revolution and Beyond (Seattle: University of Washington Press2010) 7-9; Zouxiang xinhai geming zhi lu 120—this book also reproduces many of Stafford’s photographs.
Nancy Berliner“The Eight Brokens: Trompe-l’oeil Paintings in China,”Orientations13 (1992): 61-70; Nancy Berliner “Questions of Authorship in Bapo Trompe l’oeil in Twentieth-Century Shanghai” Apollo 147 (1998):17-22.
Lin Wei-hung“Activities of Woman Revolutionists”247. This observation is echoed by Rong Tiesheng “The Women’s Movement in China Before and After the 1911 Revolution” in Chün-tu Hsüeh ed. The Chinese Revolution of 1911: New Perspectives (Hong Kong: Joint Publishers 1986) 139-74 and see 154.
Barbara Bennett PetersonNotable Women of China (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe2000)269-75. See also Lan Dong Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States (Philadelphia: Temple University Press 2011) 21-23.
Yuxin MaWomen Journalists and Feminism in China 1898-1937 (Amherst. NY: Cambria Press2010) 104; Rong “The Women’s Movement in China” 159. The Yin sisters were students of Qiu Jin; they participated in several armed uprisings and later carried out liaison and spy activities in Shanghai. See also Lin Wei-hung “Activities of Woman Revolutionists” 284 and Louise Edwards Gender Politics and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage in China (Stanford: Stanford University Press 2008) 48.
Rong“The Women’s Movement in China”158. For an account of Chen’s role in the Revolution see Rankin Early Chinese Revolutionaries esp. 203-209; for a full biography of Chen Qimei see Boorman and Howard eds. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China 1: 163-165.
OnoChinese Women in a Century of Revolution75. He would later contribute an essay on the Shanghai Women’s Northern Expedition Dare-to-die Brigade (“Shanghai nüzi beifa gansidui” see n.79). Another possible school where women might have learned military tactics was the Shanghai nüzi shangwu hui上海女子尚武會 which in February 1912 sent a message of congratulations to Yuan Shikai as president of the Republic. See Linshi gongbao 臨時公報 (19 February 1912 Beijing; reprint Taipei: Zhongyang wenwu gongyingshe 1968) 171.