Writing Women’s Experiences in the Early Twentieth Century China: A Study of Chen Hengzhe’s Autobiography
Tieniu Cheng

Chen Hengzhe (1890-1976) was a pioneering woman writer, historian, and critic in modern China. However, Chen and her writings have not been given adequate academic attention so far. This paper examines her self-narrative, Autobiography of a Chinese Young Girl, which was written in English and published in the 1930s. My research indicates that far from a simple narrative of her early life, Chen’s autobiography persistently and multi-dimensionally challenges and subverts traditional gender roles and literary conventions through verbal and textual strategies. Meanwhile, as one of the earliest woman writers in modern China, Chen was aware that women lacked their own literary language at the historical moment. Therefore, Chen endeavored to create modern Chinese women’s own language through creating new images, inverting the gender hierarchy in the traditional literature and culture, and even actively intervening in the powerful discourse of the time.

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