Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In

Asian Civilizations

First Advisor

Robertson, Maureen

First Committee Member

Choe, Steve

Second Committee Member

Chen, Shuang

Third Committee Member

Ke, Chuanren


New woman, a new word and concept put forth during the New Culture Movement beginning from 1919, when China was in the process of political, economic and cultural transformation which strongly influenced almost every aspect of society, was loaded with nationalistic connotations from the beginning and soon became a public venue to venture various discourses. Much research has been done on this topic, from the historical perspective of women’s emancipation, by studying it in the context of China’s modernization, from the angle of gender norms and sexuality, and so on. What sets my research apart is that I use New Woman--a 1934 film made in Shanghai which is especially dedicated to the image of new woman-- as my primary text and single out major themes in the film, such as “new woman” and nationalism, new woman’s struggles. In my research, I combine fictionalized narratives about new woman in literary works and films with historical discourses on new woman, and real life experiences of new woman such as Qiu Jin and Ruan Lingyu. My particular interest is to grasp the major sentiments expressed in the film and to investigate of the social and cultural context that had given rise to these sentiments. With no intention to be complete or exhaustive, this paper would consider its goal fulfilled by being able to grasp the main sentiments surrounding new woman and her place in Chinese society in the 1920s and 30s.

Public Abstract

The film New Woman, as the title indicates, is a film depicting new women’s life experiences made in Shanghai in 1934. Using New Woman as my primary text, I try to analyze the major themes represented in the film against the social and cultural background of women’s emancipation since late 19th century. The conception of “new woman”(xin nü xing, 新女性) was popularized during the New Culture Movement beginning from 1919, which was a whole-scale criticism and rethinking of Chinese culture surrounding almost every aspect of Chinese society. At that time, the Chinese nation was still under the control of foreign powers, the discourse on “new woman” was inevitably influenced by and stamped with nationalist rhetoric. All these led to a rethinking of women’s roles in Chinese society. A new woman is expected to be independent and enjoy equal rights as a man does. However, the real situation was far less optimistic. Their psychological struggles, financial difficulties, the stigmatization of female gender and sexuality were problems they had to deal with.


publicabstract, gender and sexuality, new woman, Republican China


iv, 50 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 48-49).


Copyright 2015 Linghua Xu

Included in

Asian Studies Commons