Friday, 20 February 2015

Woman Warriors - Qiu Jin

Original Sources:

here is a statue of her beside West Lake in Hangzhou, very apt because Qiu Jin was also known as the Woman Knight of Mirror Lake. She was born into a time – 1875 China – when women’s feet were still bound, and when women were still expected to fulfill their family duties by marrying someone chosen for them.

But then again, in childhood, she was exposed to a deep classical education, thanks to the same family. The martial heroes she read about became her beacons, especially those who fought for the people, and especially those who fought for the overthrow of the Ching. She grew beyond her present life. Her soul wasn’t to be bound up like her feet. Believing that a Western style of education might bring women closer to equality with men, she left her marriage and moved to Japan to study.

Her story does have a modern global scope to it. Women who can no longer be constrained by hatred and prejudice; girls, as bright as little suns, who have a fierce desire to go to school, many who want to become doctors and jurists in order to make a positive contribution to their own societies. They know what those who study global poverty know…educate a girl and you help eradicate poverty.


“With all my heart I beseech and beg my two hundred million female compatriots to assume their responsibility as citizens. Arise! Arise! Chinese women, arise!”

On her return to China, Qiu Jin joined revolutionary groups, published a journal for women and later became head of a school which trained revolutionary fighters undercover. In 1907, she was caught just before an uprising, and executed.


Here is one of her more famous poems -

Do not tell me women
are not the stuff of heroes,
I alone rode over the East Sea's
winds for ten thousand leagues.
My poetic thoughts ever expand,
like a sail between ocean and heaven.
I dreamed of your three islands,
all gems, all dazzling with moonlight.
I grieve to think of the bronze camels,
guardians of China, lost in thorns.
Ashamed, I have done nothing
not one victory to my name.
I simply make my war horse sweat.

Grieving over my native land
hurts my heart. So tell me:
how can I spend these days here?
A guest enjoying your spring winds?

According to an article in a recent issue of Kung Fu Tai Chi magazine on Huaquan written by Emilio Alpanseque, Cai Guiqin taught “swordplay to China’s first feminist Qiu Jin in Shanghai and pugilism and health preservation exercises to the founding father of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat Sen.”

Effectively, she inhabited the martial stream in which we practitioners also live. It would have been great to have learned from her, to have been exposed to her skills, to her life lessons and to the depth of her spirit. Fellow martial artists…the girls we teach, make them independent and strong. Give them the skills, both mentally and physically, to take control of their lives. In every little fist, there is a Qiu Jin.

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