The binds that divided : “Traditional” and Public Intellectuals’ views on foot binding in Reform China, 1890-1912
Date of Issue2016
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
My essay focuses on how foot binding was utilised differently by “traditional” and public intellectuals to argue for social and political reform in 1890-1912 China. This was the period of reform and revolution, which saw the emergence of intellectual dissent and increasing prominence of intellectuals themselves. Hence, through intellectual history and qualitative analysis of intellectual writings, I examine this question by looking at three intellectuals – Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao and Qiu Jin. By categorising these intellectuals into two broad categories – “traditional” intellectuals (Kang and Liang) and public intellectuals (Qiu), this thesis shows how “traditional” intellectuals utilised foot binding to criticise the backwardness of Chinese society to the educated and the elite. Meanwhile, public intellectuals such as Qiu used foot binding to question the pain and suffering of women against the background of a centuries-old notion that women were weaker and hence subservient to men. She in turn rejected that notion in order to urge the working middle class to join her in reforming China. All three figures sought reform, but Kang and Liang preferred a top-down approach, targeting educated, powerful elites while Qiu appealed to the masses and aimed to incite the Chinese public to join her reform efforts.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University