[Shanghai]: Jung cun shu ju; Hong wen shu ju, 1907. Single volume, measuring 7.25 x 5 inches: , 75, . Original printed wrappers, stitched as issued, ornamental border stamped in purple on upper wrapper. Half-title printed on green paper. Portrait of Qiu Jin in Japanese dress, wielding a sword, following the table of contents. Single character written in ink on verso of upper wrapper, name written in ink and 1922 “paid” stamp of a San Francisco Chinese grocer on lower wrapper. Foxing to covers, some edgewear, spine largely perished, text block uniformly embrowned.
Extraordinary memorial pamphlet for the Chinese revolutionary and feminist Qiu Jin (c.1875-1907), printed less than two months after her public beheading in 1907. Qiu Jin was born into wealth and privilege. Her parents bound her feet and arranged her marriage, but also provided her with a comparatively thorough education. She was deeply drawn to revolutionary ideas, however, chafing under the restrictions of life as a Chinese wife and mother; in one poem, she writes: “My body will not allow me to join the ranks of men, but my heart is far braver than that of a man.” In 1904, Qiu Jin sold her dowry to finance an escape to Japan, joining the expatriate Chinese revolutionaries gathering there. She unbound her feet and undertook the study of traditionally male martial skills, like her hero Mulan: sword fighting, archery, and horseback riding astride. She adopted masculine dress, especially Japanese and Western styles: the famous photograph reproduced in this pamphlet shows Qui Jin in Japanese dress, wielding a warrior’s sword. The portrait is a provocation, intended to spark discussion about women’s roles in the coming revolution, as well as to burnish her own legend. Qiu Jin began writing and speaking publicly in defense of women’s emancipation, arguing that China as a whole would benefit from reforms that gave women more opportunities. She directed her criticism at the arranged marriages, inadequate schooling, and foot binding that limited the potential of Chinese women. Foot binding, in particular, literally disabled women, making it impossible for them to participate in the public sphere. (While the practice had been outlawed in 1902, it was still an unquestioned expectation of an upper-class woman.) Qui Jin was a brilliant orator, a talent all the more unusual because she “lived at a time when women in China were not permitted to venture out of their homes, let alone participate in public affairs” (New York Times Overlooked obituary, 2018). Her famous poem “Reply to a Japanese Friend,” included here, is characteristic: “Don’t tell me women are not the stuff of heroes.” In 1906, Qiu Jin moved back to China, and founded the Chinese Women’s Journal to advocate for women’s rights. She became principal of a school of physical education that served as a front for her underground revolutionary organization. In 1907, the organization’s leader was captured after assassinating a local government authority, and officials soon came in pursuit of Qiu Jin, the second in command. After a fight, she was captured, tortured, and executed. The title of this pamphlet references her death poem, her last words, which play on her surname (“qiu,” meaning ‘autumn’): “Autumn rain, autumn wind: they make one die of sorrow.” Qiu Jin’s body would eventually be buried and reburied nine different times, as various factions competed to claim her as one of their own. This 1907 pamphlet is one of the earliest examples of an attempt to shape her legacy, including excerpts from her writings and tributes by others; the printer ran an exceptional risk in producing this memorial before the revolution. Sun Yat-Sen’s revolutionary party, of which Qiu Jin was the first female member, would finally overthrow the Qing Dynasty in 1911: Sun Yat-Sen’s wife described Qiu Jin as “one of the noblest martyrs of the revolution.” Today, she remains a national hero, central to modern China’s vision of itself. The legend of Qiu Jin, revolutionary general and martyr, is memorialized in print, inscribed on stele, and dramatized on stage and screen. Rare: no holdings in OCLC, and no auction records in the West. Housed in a custom chemise and slipcase. A remarkable survival of a poorly printed underground publication.