Republican Ladies and the Women of Dashilar

History Peak: The transition of women’s role in Republican Era Beijing

When the 6-year-old emperor Puyi abdicated in 1912, change was upon Beijing. Suddenly, the old patriarchal structures of society were no longer kept in place. At the top of society, Republican ladies would enjoy freedom and opportunity like never before. Newspapers, cigarette packages and movies inspired a whole new idea of what it meant to be a woman.

Caricature of women in support of women rights – Peiyang Pictorial News 1928
Caricature of women in support of women rights – Peiyang Pictorial News 1928

At the bottom of society, however, it was not curiosity that drove women out of the courtyards. It was poverty, and to the astonishment of Republican bystanders, women could now be seen doing “men’s work”, laboriously pulling rickshaws in the dusty streets of the capital.

Some would say that it was about time that change caught up with the old capital. Other places in China had long before embraced the ideas of modern society. In Shanghai, female intellectuals, actresses, suffragettes and others were already leading the charge in actively moving away from the traditional passive subordinate role of women and creating entirely new notions in the process.

Excerpt of The Peiyang Pictorial News series of drawings “The 360 Female Trades”
Excerpt of The Peiyang Pictorial News series of drawings “The 360 Female Trades”

During the Qing Dynasty, women were not allowed to have conventional jobs. The guilds of traditional trades kept women out. This prompted the newspaper The Peiyang Pictorial News to run a series of drawings entitled “The 360 Female Trades” as a sarcastic comment on the state of affairs. The paper mockingly included female “trades” such as bizarre professions like professional criers, prostitutes, opium pipe holders, and many more.

These new ideas began to shine through the cracks in the structure of the old society. Even though Beijing had done everything to resist the change, the foundation of traditional Chinese society was crumbling and the whole house was bound to fall.

Beijing Postcards looked into the history of this theme while conducting their archival research, and develop it as a walk-and-talk and an exhibition of what they found in the archive. This Walk-and-Talk takes place in the old Beijing neighborhood of Dashilar – a place that was traditionally known as the “melting pot” in Beijing society. Dashilar was at the center of development as new modern storefronts, newspaper houses, brothels and movie theaters sprung up and became important vehicles of change.

Learn more about China through Chinese Culture Workshops. Browse the selection here.

Sign Up for our Creativity Booster Newsletter:

[mc4wp_form id=”14507″]

This new themed Walk-and-Talk will be featured at their Themed Saturdays on the following dates, and the exhibition will be open freely at Beijing Postcards Public History Space at No. 97 Yangmeizhu Byway in Qianmen Area.

Beijing – Saturday, March 9 14:00-16:30

Shanghai – Saturday, March 16

Beijing – Saturday, March 23 14:00-16:30

Beijing – Saturday, March 30 11:00-13:30

Click here to know more from their website, or scan the QR code below to register through their WeChat account. 

About Beijing Postcards

Beijing Postcards is a company dedicated to Beijing history. Utilizing own historical research and a huge collection of historical photographs, maps and prints, Beijing Postcards goal is to make people relate to the city they live in. started as a community project to help expats discover and enjoy their new home-away-from-home. Together, we immerse in local culture, stay healthy, learn, meet new people and have fun. 

Along the way, we discovered that venturing into activities and workshops has even deeper benefit for people. It is a way to foster creativity, boost innovation and imagination. Let’s continue to build our community and inspire each other.

What’s your take? Follow our Creativity Booster blogs and tell us what you think in the comments below…

Leave a Reply