|Abstract: ||This paper reads Liang Qichao's (1873-1929) essays alongside post/colonial theories, in order to articulate different colonial positionalities and desires. I hope to elucidate how, in the historical processes of imperial colonialism, a nation that sees itself as both "weak (sickly)" yet "big (great)" discursively negotiates the relations between different "women" and different "men;" in the ultimate hope of moving towards alternative de-colonizing modes of knowledge.|
In his essay "On Revitalizing the People", Liang Qichao whooly affirms Western Imperialism's use of military weapons, commerce and industry, or indeed the church, as tools for expansion. Judging his own country from the eyes of the more powerful nations, he finds that his weakly country is "ghostly, sickly, feminine, approaching nightfall." Moreover, this country has only "feminine but no masculine virtues, the ways of ghosts and not those of men." In a competitive fit, Liang sees before him a nation that is feminine and sickly, almost a ghostly apparition.
Yet, when Liang writes of Chinese intellectual thought, China is positioned as the biggest country on the largest of five continents. More, from the view of a world history, that is, "the intellectual history of antiquity, we Chinese are the first," and "as for the intellectual history of the Middle Ages, we Chinese are the first" again. Finally, the twentieth century heralds the age of the "wedding" between Euro-American and Chinese civilizations, when "the Western Beauty will produce beautiful children for our family, and thereby multiply our patriline" This truly is a venerably agedand authoritative patriarchal country. At the conjunction of various time differences, what erotic relations are produced and imagined when an aged and sickly old "China" faces a young and strong "West"? A complex desire for the "Western Beauty" is, in my opinion, the reticent/noisy Siren seducing the feminist and nationalist discourses at this time.
In Liang's writings on the education of women, women are both the multitude that do not produce but merely partake of the products of national production, while on the other hand, women and their level of education, their status in society, are an index to the nation's strength. Is this woman then "self," or "other"? Furthermore, what might the relation be between these multitudinous women that do not produce, and the singular "Western Beauty," how are these two imaginings interwoven and mediated?
Key words: the "Western Beauty", Gender and Sexual Fantasies, Early 20th Century, Chinese Feminist and Nationalist Discourses, Liang Qichao, Postcolonial Theories, Two Hundred Million Women, Chinese Women, Modern Chinese Intellectual Thought, Feminism, Nationalism.