Location Home > Project on the History of R.O.C.> Literature and Artistic Development> Articles> Feminine Literature (Ming-Ru Fan)
Table of ContentsArticles
  Literature and Artistic Development

Feminine Literature (Ming-Ru Fan)
Feminine Literature (Ming-Ru Fan)


The most distinguished achievement in the field of the literature of the Republic of China in comparison with earlier eras is the comprehensive and extensive development of literature written by women. In the past hundred years, in addition to the disturbance and instability of the times with which everyone had to live, women also experienced the most dramatic changes in their gender role in two thousand years. They strived to find their self-identity in society while making constant adjustments to adapt themselves to changes in their own gender roles. Amid the turbulence and transition, there was a significant increase in the number of women writers, and efforts and talents were devoted to work on diverse subjects and styles, and accomplishments were accumulated and passed from generation to generation. Not only did woman writers carve the most fascinating page in the history of Chinese literature, their achievement is also remarkable in Asia.

This article reviews the feminist literature in China before 1949, and that in Taiwan from the beginning of Japanese colonization till today. The history of the development of literature produced by women writers in Taiwan is discussed in four periods by chronology: (1) The period of Japanese colonization; (2) The golden era, 1945-1969; (3) The transformation: 1960-1980; and (4) The period of establishment: 1980-2011.

The process of modernization in China in the early 1920’s encapsulated the rise of the recognition of women’s rights and encouraged women to pursue freedom and their own social identity. The norms and obligations that tradition had enforced on woman were critically examined. For the first time in the history of Chinese literature, woman writers were recognized and became an explicit presence. Though the literature produced by women writers inevitably developed within the framework of the surrounding environment and trends such as modernism, the new literature movement, and left-wing thinking, it also walked its own path apart from the mainstream and developed unique characteristics that broke through traditional practice. Their works expressed the interests and concerns of women, such as the challenges they faced in their changing roles, in family and marriage, and in gender relations, but at the same time also noted their responsibility to the nation and society, reflecting the influence of socialism and realism.

The struggles in society and the politics of the time fostered the production of literature by women and nurtured several much-praised writers, such as Chang Ai-ling and Ling Shu-hua, whose influence on later generations was great. However, the constant warfare interrupted the development of literature written by women. After 1949, most of the devoted and accomplished woman writers in China were forced to give up writing.

The emancipation of women in the early 20th century did not substantially benefit Taiwanese women at the time due to the political separation – Taiwan was ruled by Japan until 1945. The women writers in the colonized land faced different challenges from those in China. Furthermore, when the R.O.C took over the control of Taiwan, the change of the official language deepened their anxiety and built more barriers for creation. Consequently, the early development of literature written by women in early period of Japanese colonization in Taiwan was soon smothered and did not recover until Chinese women writers relocated to Taiwan. In bridging the gaps dug by history, these Chinese woman writers triggered a golden era for literature by women writers in Taiwan, and improved the long-standing gender imbalance in Taiwanese literature. 

Literature produced by women writers prospered in Taiwan for the first time in the 1950’s and 1960’s despite political oppression, and underwent significant transformation between 1960 and 1980. Women with formal academic training and those equipped with an understanding of modernist techniques composed the majority of the women writers in the literature community during the time. However, the society of the 1960’s did not offer a friendly climate for literature by women writers to leap further, and development was relatively slow during this time. Following the improvement in the social status of women in the late 1970’s, literature by women writers made speedy advances which finally led to the flourishing of literature by women writers in the 1980’s. Woman writers of the new generation were courageous and had full confidence to confront the most intimate issues. Moreover, women were frequent winners of many prominent literature awards and competitions. Literature by women writers gradually became one of the dominant voices in the 1990’s.

From the time of the revolution in vernacular Chinese literature, woman writers in Taiwan and China have adjusted to the society and culture of different periods of time and geographic zones. Their efforts, contribution and achievements established the status of literature written by women writers today. This achievement is unprecedented and has created a legend in the history of literature.


‧TEL: (02)2939-3091#80611 ‧FAX: (02)2938-7803 E-Mail:sthv@nccu.edu.tw 地址:11605台北市指南路2段64號政治大學社資中心二樓
NO.64,Sec.2,ZhiNan Rd.,Wenshan District,Taipei City 11605,Taiwan (R.O.C)