AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 42

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Session 42: Man in the Making: Manhood and Its Transformation from Late Ming to Republican China

Organizer: Wing-Kin Puk, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Chair: May Bo Ching, Sun Yat-Sen University, China

Discussant: Ying Zhang, Ohio State University, USA

Studying late imperial and modern China, historians certainly have not overlooked the issue of gender, although they seem to have paid more attention to femininity than to masculinity. This panel tries to fill in the gap by exploring these questions: (1) what constituted "manhood", in other words what kind of behavior, styles, values, etc., were perceived as "man" or "manly"; (2) how did such perception of manhood change; (3) how do we relate these changes to their historical and cultural contexts. This panel starts with Puk’s study of the construction of "cross-dressing" masculinity by female playwrights in late Ming and early Qing. He explains such construction in terms of late Ming urban cultural liberalism. However, it is not "cross-dressing" in opera, but the dawning of the age of nationalism that triggered drastic change to the masculinity discourse. As shown by Yozhizawa, late Qing Chinese students in Japan, most of whom young males, were greatly impressed by Japanese masculinity and began to associate masculinity with national strength. According to Ching, the new, "nationalized" masculinity in early Republican China was manifested in the martial art association Jingwuhui. Choi also unveils the dual play of nationalism and masculinity in the Nationalist government's Boy Scout program. In short, this panel not only demonstrates manhood in its own voices, but also interprets manhood in terms of the wider cultural and historical transformation in China from late imperial to modern China.

Be Man and beyond: constructing masculinity by female playwrights in Ming-Qing era
Wing-Kin Puk, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

In Ming-Qing China, femininity was an "object" of gaze and management by male. Writings about female abounded, instructing female how to behave according to the principles of chastity and domesticity. Masculinity, however, was not quite conceived as a "problem" and writings about male tended to be less gender-specific. It is therefore not easy to untangle masculinity from such a male-dominated discourse. However, a door for investigation is opened once female appropriated the male voice, and Hue Wei's editing of Ming-Qing female playwrights' works, in addition to her and others' research, have prepared us for a more thorough investigation. The female playwrights in question did not simply create a male protagonist, but created a female protagonist who knowingly appropriated the male voice or transformed herself into male (usually in dream). In so doing, a masculinity was constructed through a female mirror. At first glance the masculinity thus constructed was unsurprising: talent in literature, success in official career, physical prowess in adversity, and, not the least, physical attraction to female. However, the female playwrights did not always conform to the mainstream masculinity framework; the very presence of a "cross-dressing" female protagonist itself created an ambiguity and unleashed an anxiety that was anything but conforming. In short, by constructing a masculinity through "cross-dressing", female playwrights also deconstructed the masculinity, a process that was certainly enhanced by the late Ming liberal, even decadent urban culture.

Japanese modern ethics and the construction of Chinese manhood in late Qing
Seiichiro Yoshizawa, University of Tokyo, Japan

After the collapse of Tokugawa Regime, privileges of the samurai class were deprived, and ethics of samurai was to be abandoned. But from that point began the reconstruction of gender ideals in Meiji Japan. Japanese government adopted the conscription system to build strong army, and male solders began to be expected to be “manly.” Gradually warlike mentality was regarded as a portion of the masculinity. When many students from China went to study in Japan after 1901, Japanese sense of masculinity was very conspicuous from the viewpoints of Chinese students, most of whom were male. Some Chinese intellectuals admired Japanese masculinity, especially, reformed ideals of samurai ethics (bushido). Japanese influence was not negligible on creating modern notion of manhood in China. We should ask how important role the ethics of Japanese specific character played in the process of constructing Chinese modern masculinity. The Japanese concept of physical education was also influential in China. It was originally called taiiku in Japanese, while it was introduced as a word of the same Chinese characters (tiyu). Many articles were published in China to promote the ideal of tiyu, which was closely connected with a new sense of manhood, and usually with military culture. In many cities in China, physical education associations (tiyuhui) were established around the eve of the 1911 revolution, and some members cut their cues to show their martial spirits. This concept of tiyu was important in creating a new sense of gender in modern China.

Be Man! —— Modern masculinity and nationalistic agenda pursued by Shanghai Jingwuhui in Republican China
May Bo Ching, Sun Yat-Sen University, China

In the late Qing, anti-Manchu sentiments was blended with revolutionary idea and became part of the self-expression of some martial art societies, which had always been considered outlawed by the state. After 1911, the revolutionary discourse was reinforced and recreated, and continued to be the major language utilized by some martial art societies to fight for themselves a legitimate position in the new political order. Founded in 1910 in Shanghai, Jingwuhui was one of the examples illustrating how a martial art society tried to repackage itself to survive the warlord and Nanjing Government periods by launching a variety of activities. These activities include, namely, refashioning Chinese martial arts for training armies, militia, and school students; publishing journals for propagating their political and cultural ideas; fusing Chinese music with Western ones and creating new martial art dances for articulating a Chinese identity; and last but not least, attempting to establish itself as a “national” (guoli) or “central” (zhongyang) organization so as to gain full recognition of the Nationalist government. The last effort was, however, in vain, as the Nationalist government, like the Qing government, considered martial art societies threatening to the existing political order. Nonetheless, Jingwuhui succeed in establishing a modern and nationalistic representation of Chinese martial arts; and in line with this, it also offered a modern idea of masculinity for the twentieth-century Chinese men. Whereas most gender studies focus on women, this article tries to pay attention to men by looking at how they were refashioned in modern China.

The Boy Scouts Program and the construction of new citizenship in the Nanjing Decade (1928-1937)
Henry Choi Sze Hang, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Robert Baden-Powell established the world's first Boy Scouts in Britain in 1907. With unexpected quickness, the first Chinese Boy Scouts was established by missionary schools in 1912. In 1928, the Nationalist Party (KMT) started to turn the Scouts into a tool to mould ideal future citizens of the country by indoctrinating the Scouts with the Three People's Principles and training them with practical living skills. In the 1930s, stimulated by the Japanese invasion and inspired by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany’s extensive use of youth organizations to train highly militarized youth to serve the nation’s needs, Chiang Kai-shek entrusted the Blue Shirts, who were led by the graduates of the Whampoa Military Academy, to be responsible for the Scout affairs. They changed the focus of remodeling the Scouts from politicization to militarization. The KMT believed that the “reformed” Scouts program would produce a patriotic and disciplined youth who had the will and the ability to contribute to the nation. By analyzing Boy Scouts textbooks and monthlies published by the Commercial Press and the KMT respectively in the 1930s, this paper will first discuss how the KMT responded to the same dilemma faced by Baden-Powell in Britain in the 1910s: should the purpose of the Boy Scouts program be to train future citizens or future soldiers? Second, how the youth was transformed from childhood to adulthood in the KMT Boy Scouts program?