Chinese Women through Chinese Eyes

By Li Yu-Ning | Go to book overview

18
Shen-shen

Hsiang-ts'un

FOR SOME, the disjunction between the new ideals and current realities was a challenge, a stimulus to pursue a career or participate in political activities. For others, it could be traumatic, crushing, and destructive. The next two women are representative of many who were unable to cope with the world around them. The unnamed young woman in the first account, which appeared in Chia (Family), Shanghai, no. 21 ( October 1947), pp. 372-73, had the opportunity for self-development provided by the new higher education, and she seems to have flourished while she was away from home at a local university. Her marriage to a mediocre young man, arranged by her father to maintain a tradition of family connections (a not uncommon occurrence), brought an abrupt end to what must have seemed a bright new life. The young woman's rapid descent into a state of dejection and torpor, told with sympathy by a relative of her husband, provides the background for understanding her short letter to her father, the spiritual autobiography of a young woman whose life was shattered not by cruelty or poverty but because her dreams were so out of joint with ordinary life. Although few women went to the extreme of leaving society and becoming a Buddhist nun, many suffered a similar agony due to the disparity between the new ideal of marriage for love and the realities of arranged marriage. This topic was a frequent theme in the writings, fictional and nonfictional, in the years following the May Fourth period. The author's pseudonym in this piece translates as "Village," and the title is the term for the wife of one's father's younger brother.

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