During Chinas long revolutionary years the state both promoted and negated new roles for women. The most severe reaction against female activism was the Guomindangs counter revolution, called the White Terror (1927 - 1928), when female activists were accused of being instigators of societal chaos. During Chiang Kai-sheks relentless hunt for Communists, thousand of women were murdered and raped, including those who had simply bobbed their hair. The Communists, for their part, turned away from what they saw as bourgeois feminist reforms to attack the socioeconomic conditions they perceived as the source of all female oppressions. The idea was that once gender difference was erased, women would be freed to help spearhead the new society. Mao Zedong coined the phrase Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and set in motion a campaign to get women out of the home and into the work force. Selections from oral histories collected during the period illustrate his attempts to mobilize the lowest in society, the female peasant, so she could confront feudal fathers, husbands or landlords.
Our China trade collection includes 19th-century export porcelain, paintings, furniture, and other unique items brought back from China by Captain Robert Bennet Forbes and his family. You can see examples of Canton blue-and-white china and three pairs of Chinese Foo Dogs. On view are portraits of the powerful Chinese foreign trade official, Houqua, and Thomas Tunno Forbes, the Captain’s older brother who perished in the waters of China in 1829. See peacock feathers, bronze Chinese cranes, and sculptures of Buddha and the goddess of mercy, Guan Yin.
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