Regulating Prostitution in China: Gender and Local Statebuilding, 1900-1937

By Elizabeth J. Remick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Jiliangsuo
Prostitute Rescue Institutions

IN A WORLD CONTEXT, one of the unusual aspects of the late Qing and Republican prostitution regulation system is the jiliangsuo, or prostitute rescue institution. These institutions are not well known or understood, especially in comparison with the Door of Hope Mission (DHM) in Shanghai, an Anglo-American Christian rescue mission that has been extensively studied by scholars of the Shanghai demimonde (Gronewold 1996; Henriot 2001; Hershatter 1997). In contrast to the DHM, the jiliangsuo were secular, police-run institutions intended to reform former prostitutes—not by saving their souls, but by teaching them discipline and virtuous womanly skills such as weaving and household management— and eventually marrying them off. The institutions started to spring up around China in the period 1907–1909, with their rules appearing alongside the police statues regulating prostitution. In this way, we can see that they were an integral part of the regulatory system nearly from its inception, even though they were not part of the regulatory regimes in Japan or Europe on which they were based.

This chapter explores the institutional origins of the jiliangsuo and also its inner workings. The jiliangsuo is illuminated as a space where some of the major political and social themes of early twentieth-century China collided: colonialism/imperialism, World Christianity, China’s own “modernization” and statebuilding plans, and the local and international feminist movements, to name a few. This collision resulted in the creation of an institution unlike what we see in other countries where prostitution was regulated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Examining how the jiliangsuo worked internally also sheds light on gendered aspects of prostitution regulation, and the ways in which local state officials used the system to throw the power of the local state behind the existing gender hierarchy. In looking at how the jiliangsuo worked, we can infer how local officials conceptualized the causes and “cures” for prostitution, what

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