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Between the New and the Old: How the Media Portrayed a Female Killer in 1930s China

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Newspapers are normally thought of as engines of modernization within the context of Chinese modern history. But is this always the case? The texts of news reports on a female killer’s case published in merchant-manipulated newspapers in Guangzhou, China, during the 1930s can be effectively analyzed to examine this assumption. In this case, a wife named Wang Wenshu killed her husband’s new lover, Wang Yuanzhen. Juridical archives explain the motive of this homicide as the victim having a feud with the wife, because the victim wanted to be the wife, and not a concubine. By portraying this case in the light of “wife abuses concubine”, rather than viewing it as a case of the husband’s inappropriate polygamy, which the Women’s Association argued it should be, the news reports soundlessly convert the new principle of “Female Equality to Males” into the old mindset of “Concubine to be Kindly Treated by Wife”. The news reports on this case indicate that the role that modern newspapers played in Chinese history is much more complex and multiplex than solely that of “modernization engine.”
Xuelian Hu is an associate professor in the school of social of science education at Sun Yat-sen University. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of History, SYSU. Her recent research is  focused on the social news in popular newspapers in the decade of 1930 in Guangzhou, from the view of legal transformation and sexual roles in domestic cases. Several of her papers on this topic have been published in academic journals such as Journalism and Communication in China.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017. 12:00 PM


Lathrop Library (East Asia Library), Room 224, 518 Memorial Way


Center for East Asian Studies




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