Primary Source

Poem by Qiu Jin, Chinese feminist

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While the discussion surrounding the Chinese practice of footbinding often focuses on the writings of western missionaries, the example of Qiu Jin, a Chinese feminist and poet, demonstrates that the practice was criticized by Chinese individuals as well. Qui Jin had her feet bound as a child and as an adult spoke out against the practice. In 1904, she moved away from her husband and children to study in Japan where she wrote the poem here. In the poem she explicitly connects her bid for independence with unbinding her feet "Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison,
With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits."

This source is a part of the Western Views of Chinese Women teaching module.

Qiu Jin, "Preoccupation," 1904

Text

Sun and moon have no light left, earth is dark;
Our women’s world is sunk so deep, who can help us?
Jewelry sold to pay for this trip across the seas,
Cut off from my family I leave my native land.
Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison,
With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits.

Credits

Translation by Jonathan Spence in his history of China’s literary revolution, The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1982

How to Cite This Source
Poem by Qiu Jin, Chinese feminist in World History Commons,