Historical photograph of revolutionary and feminist Qiu Jin.

Qiu Jin founded a women’s magazine, advocated equal rights for women, and worked against the government of the Qing dynasty until she was arrested and executed.

Qiu Jin, (Ch’iu Chin) meaning “Autumn Jade,” was born into a well-to-do family in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province. She received a good education, but when she was twenty-one she was forced into a marriage arranged by her parents. Qiu Jin had two children before she left her family in 1904 and went to Japan, where she studied and was influenced by Western ideas. She unbound her feet while there, as well: an extremely painful act of rebellion. Returning to Zhejiang in 1906, she founded Zhongguo Nubao (Chinese Women’s Journal) magazine in Shanghai. In articles for the magazine, she condemned such practices as arranged marriages and foot-binding and urged equal rights and modern education for women. In her outward appearance, and with her participation in activities such as martial arts and horseback riding, she was often at odds with her community. She joined the revolutionary organization of Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925) and supported anti-Manchu (Qing) movements. With a male cousin, Xu Xilin, she coordinated several secret societies and planned a rebellion. In July 1907 both Xu and Qiu Jin were arrested and executed before the plans could be carried out. Qiu Jin remained silent about her activities under torture, and after her death became a martyr and a heroine in the fight against the government of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Although she was originally buried ignominiously, she was re-interred after the fall of the Qing dynasty and given an honorable burial.

A Song: Promoting Women’s Rights

A poem by women’s rights activist and revolutionary Qiu Jin, written around the time of her founding of the Chinese Women’s Journal in 1906.

Our generation yearns to be free;

To all who struggle: one more cup of the
Wine of Freedom!

Male and female equality was by Heaven

So why should women lag behind?

Let’s struggle to pull ourselves up,

To wash away the filth and shame of former

United we can work together,

And restore this land with out soft white

Most humiliating is the old custom,

Of treating women no better than cows and

Source: DeLamotte, E. C., Meeker, N., O’Barr, J. F.. (1997). Women imagine change: A global anthology of women’s resistance, from 600 BCE to present. London: Routledge, 494.

Further Reading

Gipoulon, C. (1976). Qiu Jin: Pierres de l’oiseau Jingwei. Femme et révolutionnaire en Chine au XIXe siècle. Paris: Éditions des femmes.

The Qiu Jin Project: A Documentary on the Life of China’s First Feminist. (2008). Retrieved November 10, 2008, from

Hu Ying. (2004). Writing Qiu Jin’s life: Wu Zhiying and her family learning. Late Imperial China 25(2), 119–160.

Source: Nielsen, Bent (2009). QIU Jin. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1857–1858. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

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