COMMENTARY ON THE SUICIDE OF MISS ZHAO
Miss Zhao’s Suicide (November 16, 1919)
When something happens in society, we should not underrate its importance. The background of any event contains the multiple causes of its occurrence. For example, the event of a “person’s death” can be explained in two ways. One is biological and physical, as in the case of “passing away in ripe old age.” The other goes against biological and physical factors, as in the case of “premature death” or “unnatural death.” The death of Miss Zhao by suicide belongs to the latter category of “unnatural death.”
A person’s suicide is determined entirely by circumstances. Was it Miss Zhao’s original intent to seek death? No, it was to seek life. If, in the end, Miss Zhao chose death, it was because circumstances drove her to this. The circumstances in which Miss Zhao found herself included: (1) Chinese society, (2) the family living in the Zhao residence on Nanyang Street in Changsha, (3) the Wu family of the Orange Garden in Changsha, the family of the husband she did not want. These three factors constituted three iron nets, which we can imagine as a kind of triangular construction. Within these triangular iron nets, however much Miss Zhao sought life, there was no way for her to go on living. The opposite of life is death, and so Miss Zhao was obliged to die.
If one of these three factors had not been an iron net, or if one of the iron nets had opened, Miss Zhao would certainly not have died. (1) If Miss Zhao’s parents had not used excessive compulsion, but had acceded to her own free will, she would certainly not have died. (2) If, while exercising compulsion, Miss Zhao’s parents had allowed her to put her point of view to her fiancé’s family, and to explain the reasons for her refusal, and if in the end her fiancé’s family had accepted her point of view, and respected her individual freedom, Miss Zhao would certainly not have died. (3) If, even though neither her own parents nor her husband’s family could accept her free will, there had been in society a powerful segment of public opinion to back her, and if there had been an entirely new world to which she could flee, in which her act of flight would be considered honorable and not dishonorable, Miss Zhao again would certainly not have died. If Miss Zhao is dead today, it is because she was solidly enclosed by the three iron nets (society, her own family, her fiancé’s family); she sought life in vain, and finally was led to seek death.
Last year in Tokyo, Japan, there was the case of the double suicide of the wife of a count and a chauffer who had fallen in love. The Tōkyō Shimbun published a special issue, following which a number of writers and scholars discussed the incident for several months straight. Yesterday’s incident was very important. The background to this incident is the rottenness of the marriage system, and the darkness of the social system, in which there can be no independent ideas or views, and no freedom of choice in love. As we discuss different kinds of theories, we should discuss them in the light of real, living events. Yesterday, Mr. Tianlai and Mr. Jiangong have already provided a short introduction. In continuing this discussion and presenting some of my own views, I have done so with the express hope that others will earnestly discuss the case of this young woman, a martyr to freedom and to love, from many different perspectives, and will cry “Injustice!” on her behalf. (See yesterday’s issue of this paper for details.)
The Question of Miss Zhao’s Personality (November 18, 1919)
The day before yesterday, I wrote a commentary in which I said that the cause of Miss Zhao’s death was entirely determined by her circumstances, that is, by the society in which she lived and by the two families, those of her own parents and of her fiancé. Consequently, I would like to say a few words about the personality of Miss Zhao.
Someone asked me whether Miss Zhao had a personality or not. I said that I had two replies, one, that Miss Zhao did not have a personality of her own, the other, that she did have a personality.
What did I mean by saying that Miss Zhao did not have a personality? If Miss Zhao had had a personality, she would not have died. Why not? Having a personality requires respect from those one deals with. Its prerequisite is freedom of the will. Was Miss Zhao’s will free? No, it was not free. Why wasn’t it free? Because Miss Zhao had parents. In the West, the free will of children is not affected by the parents. In the Western family organization, father and mother recognize the free will of their sons and daughters. Not so in China. The commands of the parent and the will of the child are not at all on an equal footing. The parents of Miss Zhao very clearly forced her to love someone she did not want to love. No freedom of will was recognized at all. If you do not want to love me, but I force my love on you, that is a form of rape. This is called “direct rape.” Their daughter did not want to love that person, but they forced their daughter to love that person. This, too, is a kind of rape, which is called “indirect rape.” Chinese parents all indirectly rape their sons and daughters. This is the conclusion which inevitably arises under the Chinese family system of “parental authority,” and the marriage system in which there is the “policy of parental arrangement.” For Miss Zhao to have had a personality of her own she would have had to have a free will. For her to have a free will, her parents would have had to respect her and accede to her wishes. If Miss Zhao’s parents had respected her, had acceded to her wishes, would she have been put into that cage-like bridal sedan chair in which she finally committed suicide? But it is now a fact that this happened. Thus, my first reply is that Miss Zhao did not have a personality of her own.
Why do I also say that she did have a personality? This is with reference to Miss Zhao herself. Although Miss Zhao lived for twenty-one years (she was twenty-one sui) in a family that did not allow her to have a personality, and for twenty-one years her father and mother kept her from having a personality, in that last brief moment of her twenty-one years, her personality suddenly came forth. Alas, alas, death is preferable to the absence of freedom. The snow-white knife was stained with fresh red blood. The dirt road of Orange Garden Street, splashed with blood, was transformed into a solemn highway to heaven. And with this, Miss Zhao’s personality also gushed forth suddenly, shining bright and luminous. Consequently, my second reply is that Miss Zhao did indeed have a personality of her own.
Thus, my conscience forces me to utter the following two sentences:
1) All parents who are like the parents of Miss Zhao should be put in prison.
2) May the cry of all humanity fill the heavens, “Long live Miss Zhao!”
The Marriage Question—An Admonition to Young Men and Women (November 19, 1919)
Three days ago, the Casual Comments section of this paper carried a piece by Mr. Jiangong, “Those Sacrificed to Reform of the Marriage System.” Referring to the suicide of Miss Zhao, he addressed a warning to parents. It read as follows:
…not all Chinese are deaf and blind. Anyone with even a little tiny bit of conscience should be thoroughly awakened, and refrain from interfering in the marriages of his sons and daughters. This young woman did not die for nothing….We must not fail her, we must not allow the sacrifice of her life to have been in vain.
The words of Mr. Jiangong say half of what must be said, but he left out the other half. Let me add the following.
Dear young men and women throughout China. None of you are deaf and blind. Having seen such a tragedy of “blood splattering the city of Changsha,” you must be stirred to the depths of your souls, and become thoroughly awakened. See to it that you arrange your own marriages yourselves. The policy of letting parents arrange everything should absolutely be repudiated. Love is sacred, and absolutely cannot be arranged by others, cannot be forced, cannot be bought. We must not fail her, we must not allow the sacrifice of her life to have been in vain.
Readers, what are your views?
The Question of Reforming the Marriage System (November 19, 1919)
Yesterday, my piece on Mr. Jiangong’s “Those Sacrificed to Reform of the Marriage System,” and his words on which I was elaborating, offered an appropriate proposal for young men and women. Today I would like to say that since we have already mentioned “reform of the marriage system” we should proceed to discuss “How to reform the marriage system.” I really hope that all of you young men and women will come up with solutions to this question. This newspaper would of course greatly welcome your essays on such solutions.
“The Evils of Society” and Miss Zhao (November 21, 1919)
My friend Mr. Yinbo [Peng Huang], in his editorial comments published the day before yesterday in this paper, criticized my article, “Commentary on the Suicide of Miss Zhao,” saying that I had placed all the blame on circumstances, letting Miss Zhao off scot-free, and that this was not right. He wrote, “The action of Miss Zhao was a weak and negative action. Such actions must never never be advocated.” I am basically in total agreement with this positive critique, forcefully put forward by Mr. Yinbo. On the question of the suicide of Miss Zhao, I had originally intended to criticize her on several different small points. Among the several small points that I was considering, one was precisely “against suicide.” Mr. Yinbo’s view and my view are really identical.
In the end, however, I cannot let “society” off. No matter how weak you might say Miss Zhao’s act of committing suicide was, you cannot say she “died without cause.” And the “cause” of her death, to one degree or another, indisputably did come from outside of herself, from society. Since society contains “causes” that could bring about Miss Zhao’s death, this society is an extremely dangerous thing. It was able to cause the death of Miss Zhao; it could also cause the death of Miss Qian, Miss Sun, or Miss Li. It can make “women” die; it can also make “men” die. There are still so many of us who today have not yet died. We must be on our guard against this dangerous thing that could find the occasion to inflict a fatal blow on us at any moment. We must protest loudly, warn and awaken those fellow human beings who are not yet dead, and cry out: “Society is evil!”
I said that there were three factors that drove Miss Zhao to her death. One was her parent’s family, one was her fiancé’s family, and one was society. Ultimately, both her parents’ family and her fiancé’s family are each one component of society. We must understand that the parents’ family and the fiancé’s family are guilty of a crime, but the source of their crime lies in society. It is true that the two families could themselves have perpetrated this crime, but a great part of their culpability was transmitted to them by society. Moreover, if society were good, even if the families had wanted to perpetrate this crime, they would not have had the opportunity to do so. For example, if the Zhao family had heard that Madame Wu, the prospective mother-in-law, was bad, the go-between, Fourth Madame She, would have insisted that it was not true. If this had taken place in Western society, there would have been no system of go-betweens to force them together, and no lies to trick them. Or again, if this had been in Western society, and Miss Zhao’s father had slapped her in the face when she refused to get into the sedan chair, she could have taken him to court and sued him, or she would have resisted in some way to protect herself. Or yet again, when Miss Zhao wanted the Wu family to change the date, the wife of the eldest brother of the Wu family had the right simply to “refuse adamantly,” and the other side was forced to accept this “refusal,” and go ahead with the marriage. All these are dirty tricks peculiar to the evil society of China.
Mr. Yinbo wonders why Miss Zhao didn’t just run away, and he says that it would have been possible for her actually to do this. I say, true enough, but first let me raise a few questions, after which I shall present my view.
1) Within the city of Changsha there are more than forty peddlers of foreign goods. Within a 30-li radius of Shaoshan Village where I live there are seven or eight peddlers of mixed foreign and domestic goods.  Why is this?
2) Why is it that all the toilets in the city of Changsha are for men only, and none for women?
3) Why is it you never see women entering a barber shop?
4) Why is it single women are never seen staying at hotels?
5) Why is it you never see women going into teahouses to drink tea?
6) Why is it that the customers hastening in and talking business in such silk shops as the Taihefeng or in stores selling foreign merchandise such as Yutaihua are never women, always men?
7) Why is it that of all the carters in the city not one is a woman, they are all men?
8) Why is it that at First Normal School outside South Gate there are no women students? And why are there no male students at Old Rice Field First Normal?
Anyone who knows the answers to these questions will understand why it was that Miss Zhao could not run away. The answers to these questions are not difficult. There is only one general answer, that “men and women are extremely segregated,” that women are not allowed a place in society. In this society, in which “men and women are extremely segregated” and women are not allowed a place, even supposing Miss Zhao had wanted to run away, where would she have run to?
To those who say that there are examples in this world of those who have run away, I again reply, yes there are. Once more, I will give you an example. “In our village of Shaoshan, there is a young woman of eighteen named Mao who is both intelligent and good looking. She was married to a man named Zhong who was both extremely stupid and extremely ugly. This young woman was extremely unwilling. Finally she threw off her husband and had an affair with the son of a neighbor named Li. In August of this year she ran away from her home to exercise the freedom to love.
You certainly must think that this was very good. But…
“In less than two days, she was surrounded by some other people who notified her family. Her family then sent someone to catch her.”
Just being caught wouldn’t have been so bad.
“She was dragged home, where she was beaten very severely and locked in an inner room, where as before she was left with her stupid husband to fulfill that ‘most proper’ marital relationship.”
This still wasn’t much.
[Third Brother Zhang]
“Zhang San says. ‘She deserved to be beaten. She ran away. She’s shameless.’ ”
[Fourth Brother Zhang]
“Zhang Si agrees. ‘If you don’t beat her now, when will you! If a family produces a girl like this, it’s really a miserable disgrace to their whole clan.’ ”
This Miss Mao should be seen as putting into practice a positive view of things. Not afraid of danger or stopped by difficulties, she did everything possible to struggle against the evil demon. But what was the result? As far as I can see she got only three things: she got “caught,” she got “beaten,” and she got “cursed.”
If we look at it in this perspective, how could Miss Zhao have done anything else but commit suicide? Alas for Miss Zhao! Alas for the evils of society!
After I had finished writing the draft of this article, I saw the critique of Mr. Rulin.  He also emphasizes the aspect of society, on which our views agree. But from the standpoint of Miss Zhao, as to whether or not there were other means by which she could have fulfilled her free will, and what the relative value of the different means might be, I will discuss that next time. Any further details on what Miss Zhao’s personal name was, or what school she graduated from, or whether she had bound or natural feet, would be most welcome.
Concerning the Incident of Miss Zhao’s Suicide (November 21, 1919)
In recent days there have been many commentaries on the incident of Miss Zhao’s suicide, and I too have written a few comments on it that have been published in this city’s Dagongbao. This is a public event that concerns all mankind, and leaving aside those who advocate extreme individualism and living alone, everyone should pay attention to it and study it. Because for several thousand years perverse customs based on the [Confucian] rites have prevailed in China, women have had no status in any area of life. From politics, law, and education, to business, social relations, entertainment, and personal status, women have always been treated very differently from men, and relegated to the dark corners of society. Not only are they denied happiness, they are also subjected to many kinds of inhumane mistreatment. That this incident of a woman being driven to suicide should occur at a time like this, when the truth is very clear and there are loud calls for the liberation of women, shows just how profound are the evils of our nations’s society. Today we need not express more pity for the deceased, but rather we should look for a method that will thoroughly correct this problem so that from now on such a tragedy as this will never happen again. But before we look for a method, we must first search for the controlling root causes of this domination.
Let us consider why it is that women have been bullied by men and have not been able to emancipate themselves for thousands of years. Regarding this point, we must examine the question of what, in the last analysis, are the defects of women? Looked at superficially, women have a lower level of knowledge than men, and are weaker willed than men. Women have deep emotional feelings, and when the emotions well up, one’s conscious awareness recedes. In this respect, they are psychologically not the equals of men. Also, women are physically somewhat weaker, and to this must be added the suffering and painful difficulty of walking with bound feet. These are the physiological defects of women. Actually, none of these are inherent defects. Generally speaking, the psychological processes of women are not different from those of men. This has already been proven by the fact that the effects of education in all countries show no differences based on gender. The last two items of physical weakness are the result of custom. The binding of women’s feet was not practiced in antiquity and cannot be regarded as a basic biological defect. The search for any inherent biological deficiency in women finally comes down solely to the question of childbearing.
The relationship between men and women should, according to the contemporary view, center on “love,” and apart from love, must not be governed by “economics.” Thus the contemporary position is, “Each is economically independent, sharing the fruits of love.” Before modern times, this was not the case. No one knew of the principle “Love is sacred.” In the relationship between men and women, love was considered to be only secondary, while the core relationship remained economic, and was thus controlled by capitalism. In antiquity, eating was a simple affair. People picked fruit and caught wild animals and fish, and were easily satisfied. Men and women were equals, and economically women asked nothing of men and men asked nothing of women. Men and women sought of each other only “love.” Thus woman sometimes, on the contrary, used her physiological strengths (physiologists say that in sexual physiology women are stronger than men) to control men. Later, as population increased, and food supplies became inadequate, the competition for survival made it necessary to emphasize work, and with this arrived the terrible age in which women became subjugated to men.
In doing physical labor, women are not inherently inferior to men, but because women cannot work during the period of childbearing, men took advantage of this weakness, exploited this single flaw, made “submission” the condition of exchange and used “food” to shut them up. This then is the general cause that has kept women subjugated and unable to emancipate themselves. On the one hand, what member of the human race was not born of woman? Childbearing by women is an indispensable element in the survival of humanity. That men should have forgotten this supreme act of benevolence, and on the contrary should have wantonly and unscrupulously oppressed them, merely for the sake of petty economic relationships, is truly a case of returning evil for good. On the other hand, childbearing is an extremely painful event. “The pangs of childbirth” is a term that frightens every woman who hears it. Despite the medical discoveries that have changed the “difficulty of childbirth” into the “ease of childbirth,” we should show great reverence and compassion. How can we instead take advantage of trivial economic benefits to press the other down?
Having presented the “reasons” above, we can now turn to the “methods.” The methods by which women can become free and independent and never again be oppressed by men may in general be listed as follows:
1) A woman must never marry before she is physically mature.
2) Before marriage, at the bare minimum, a woman must be adequately prepared in knowledge and skills to live her own life.
3) A woman must prepare herself for living expenses after childbirth.
The above three items are the basic prerequisites for a woman’s own personal independence. In addition, there is a further condition of “public child support,” to which society should pay close attention. If women themselves are able to fulfill the above three conditions, and if society, for its part, provides for the public rearing of children, then marital relationships centered on love can be established. This will depend on the efforts of all us young men and women!
Against Suicide (November 23, 1919)
I have placed the blame for Miss Zhao’s suicide on the circumstances that forced her to this. I have said nothing so far about “suicide” itself. On the question of suicide, scholars of ethics, ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, have presented who knows how many arguments. Whether extolling or condemning suicide, their point of departure has always been their philosophies of life, how they viewed human life. My attitude toward suicide is to reject it, on several levels.
1) Ethics is the science of defining the objectives of human life and the methods for attaining the objectives of human life. Aside from a small number of pessimistic moral philosophers, the majority hold that the goal of man is “life.” Some may define that as meaning “for the public good, freely develop the individual,” and others may define it as meaning “the life and development of the individual and all mankind.” But Paulsen says it is “developing all the human bodily and mental powers without exception to their highest, with no apologies for doing so.” I feel that Paulsen’s words, as a concrete expression of the objective of human life, are most apt. But this objective is definitely not attainable through suicide. Not only is suicide not a means for “developing to their highest the powers of the human body and spirit, with no apologies for doing so,” it is ultimately the opposite of “developing to their highest the powers of the human body and spirit, with no apologies for doing so.” This principle is very easy to understand.
2) As to what is going through the mind of the person who commits suicide, we cannot really judge, since we have not had the experience of committing suicide. Living persons generally reject the concept of “death” and welcome the concept of “life.” The vast majority of human beings welcome the concept of “life” and reject the concept of “death.” Thus we have to say that those few who welcome “death” and reject “life” are exceptions to the rule. These exceptions may be seen as persons having a kind of mental abnormality.
3) Physiologically, a person’s body is composed of cells, and the life of the person as a whole is the composite of the lives of the individual cells. The natural condition of cellular life is to continue living until a certain age, at which time one dies of old age. Suicide is a revolt against this natural physiological condition. This natural physiological condition falls under the control of a kind of abnormal mentality, and is thereby terminated. We may say that this is a kind of physiological irregularity.
4) In the world of living things, very few of them commit suicide. Although there are tales about so-called loyal dogs of animals who have been faithful unto death, these are not common occurrences. Ordinarily animals delight in life, are adapted to their environments, and strive in every way to seek life.
To summarize the above, suicide has no place in ethics, in psychology, in physiology, or in biology. Thus the criminal law of many nations includes prohibitions against suicide. Social custom, too, celebrates life and grieves at death, and both of these attitudes are rooted in the “principle of seeking life.”
Today we are concerned with why there are, after all, suicides in human society, and why they are not altogether rare, and also with the question of why we invariably express a feeling of respect for heroic suicides, and sometimes even suggest that it was “a good suicide.” What is the reason for this?
My response to these two points is:
1) Before the idea of committing suicide develops, a person does not want to commit suicide, but rather wants to seek life. Moreover, his hope for life is unusually strong. Such an unusually strong hope as this can only be fulfilled under conditions which are at least adequate. If one’s environment or poor treatment causes one’s hopes to be repeatedly frustrated and turn into disappointment and loss of hope, then one will invariably seek death. Thus a criminal cannot be told that he has been given a death sentence very many days before the sentence is actually executed. Therefore, we know that the motivation for a person’s suicide is absolutely not to seek death. Not only is it not to seek death, but it is actually an urgent striving toward life. The reason why there are suicides in human society is that society has robbed that person completely of his “hope” and has left him “in utter despair.” When society robs someone completely of his hope, leaving him in despair, then that person will surely commit suicide. Such was the case of Miss Zhao. If society robs a group or clan of people completely of hope, and leaves them in utter despair, then this group of clan will inevitably commit suicide, as in the case of the 500 Tianheng martyrs who all committed suicide at the same time,  or of Hong and Yang’s army of 100,000 who set fire to themselves,  or the beginning of the Dutch war with a certain other state when they declared that if pressed too hard they would breach the sea dikes and drown themselves. If society in a certain place leaves more people in despair, then there will be more suicides in that society. If society in a certain place leaves fewer people in despair, then there will be fewer suicides in that society.
2) We respect the heroic suicide for the following two reasons. First, because that person dares to do what others dare not do, we recognize that his spirit surpasses our own, and thus a feeling of respect arises unwittingly within us. Second, because of his spirit of rebellion against oppression, we recognize that although his body is dead, his aspirations live on (they do not actually continue to exist, but his suicide makes us feel as if they do), and the powers oppressing him are thus foiled. We derive a feeling of happiness and comfort from this, which turns into respect for the person who has committed suicide. Consequently, we respect only heroic suicides, which represent the triumph of righteousness over treachery.
At this point, I would like to explain the topic under discussion, “against suicide.”
First, as has been proved in many ways, our goal is the search for life, so we ought not turn around and seek death. Therefore I am “against suicide.”
Second, the condition of suicide is that society robs a person of hope. In such circumstances, we ought to advocate struggle against society, to take back the hope that has been lost. To die in struggle is to “be killed,” it is not “suicide.” So I am “against suicide.”
Third, we do not feel respect for “suicide” as such, so if we respect a heroic suicide, it is because he has “performed a difficult action,” and “resisted oppression.” If it were not for these two aspects, suicide would be easy. Furthermore, if there were no oppression in this world, there would be no need to resist it; in that case, even though suicides might take place, how could they inspire a feeling of respect? Since we have no feeling of respect for “suicide” as such, we ought to oppose this thing called “suicide.” Regarding the first point, respect for a “difficult action,” we should look elsewhere for it, rather than in the callous act of suicide. As for the second point, “resistance to oppression,” we should seek it in struggle. Thus I am “against suicide.”
“Her suicide had only ‘relative’ value in terms of ‘preserving the personality.’”
The above article, drafted in haste, presents my own personal views. The reader is invited to judge whether, in the last analysis, I am right or wrong. I do find it difficult to express agreement with the view of Mr. Xinman,  who sees suicide as “a most happy and joyous event.” In case of glaring errors, corrections would be extremely welcome.
The Question of Love – Young People and Old People. Smash the Policy of Parental Agreement (November 25, 1919)
I often feel that in matters of all kinds, old people generally take a position of opposition to young people. From such things in daily life as eating and dressing, to feelings about society and the nation, and attitudes toward mankind in the world at large, they are always drearily, rigidly, and coweringly passive. Their views are always ingratiatingly humble. Their position is always negative. I think that if young and old are none the less able to live together, it is mostly because of a relationship of mutual benefit. The old rely on the young to provide their food and clothing, while the young rely on the elderly to provide experience and wisdom. Although you may feel that this is an “extreme” way of putting it, this very peculiar phenomenon does exist in China, thanks to an evil system and evil customs. It is a fact that there are fundamental differences between the life of the old and that of the young. This proposition has physiological and psychological foundations. The reason why human life is different for the old and for the young lies in the differences between the physiology and psychology of the old and of the young. Generally speaking, human life is the satisfaction of physiological and psychological desires. Desires differ according to differences in sex, differences in age, differences in occupation, and differences in beliefs. The difference in desires resulting from age differences is, however, the most pronounced. This has already been proven by both Eastern and Western scholars.
We have many different kinds of desires, such as the desire to eat, the desire for sex, the desire to play, the desire for fame, and the desire for power and influence (also called the desire to dominate), and so on. Of these, the desires for food and sex are fundamental, the former to maintain the “present” and the latter to open up the “future.” Of these two desires, there is no absolute difference in the desire for food according to age. Sexual desire does, however, differ with age.
The expression of sexual desire, generally speaking, is love. Young people see the question of love as being very important, while old men don’t think it’s worth worrying about. The relationship between husband and wife was originally meant to be totally centered around love, with everything else being subordinate. Only in China is this question put to one side. When I was young, I saw many people getting married. I asked them what they were up to. They all replied that a person takes a wife to have someone to make tea, cook, raise pigs, chase away the dogs, spin, and weave. At this I asked, wouldn’t it be a lot easier just to hire a servant? It wasn’t until later that I heard that people got married to “carry on the family line.” This left me still perplexed. And right down to today, when you look at what society says about marriage, you still can’t find even a hint of anything about love. Society does not regard love as being important, and thus, except for the slave’s work of making tea, cooking, and so on, marriage is nothing but that base life of fleshly desire. (What we call sexual desire, or love, involves not only the satisfaction of the physiological urge of fleshly desire, but the satisfaction of a higher order of desires — spiritual desires and desires for social intercourse.) The slave’s work of making tea and cooking is a result of capitalism. Old people pay no attention to love, only to “eating.” Thus when their sons want to take a wife, they say they are taking a daughter-in-law. Their goal in getting a daughter-in-law is to have the daughter-in-law do the slave’s work for them. A passage in the Book of Rites says, “Even if a son is very pleased with his wife, if his parents are not, he repudiates her. A son should not be pleased with his wife.” This is firm proof of the fact that the question of love between the son and the daughter-in-law is to be put to one side, and that a wife is only doing the slavework. When a woman is given in marriage, her parents don’t say that they have chosen a husband for their daughter, but rather that they have selected a happy son-in-law. A “happy son-in-law” means only that this will make the parents happy. It doesn’t matter whether their daughter will be happy or not. And even all the dowry payments are just so that they themselves can eat well. In short, capitalism and love are in conflict with one another. Old men are in conflict with love. Thus there is a tight bond between old men and capitalism, and the only good friends of love are young people. Wouldn’t you say that old men and young people are in conflict with each other?
Observing that the Zhao family forced their daughter to commit suicide, Mr. Pingzi  strongly opposes parent’s controlling the marriage of their children, but he does not bring out the real reasons for this disposition. The arguments of others like Messrs. Yunyuan, Weiwen, and Buping  mostly vacillate back and forth on the issue of parents interfering with the marriages of their children, and do not take a firm stand against such encroachment. (Mr. Buping’s suggestion that parents act as participants with a strong say in the matter goes even farther.) I have adduced physiological and psychological evidence to prove that parents absolutely cannot interfere in the marriages of their sons and daughters. On their side, sons and daughters should absolutely refuse parental interference in their own marriages. This must be done, for only then can capitalist marriage be abolished; only then can marriage based on love be established, so that loving and happy couples may truly appear.
Smash the Matchmaker System (November 27, 1919)
Speaking of this thing called a “matchmaker,” this is another cheap trick of Chinese society. Chinese society contains a great many cheap tricks. Things like those literary essays, imperial examinations, local bandits, and bureaucrats are all nothing but a bunch of tricks and games. The same is true of things like exorcizing devils, sacrifices to appease the gods, dragon lanterns, lion dances, and even doctors treating patients, teachers teaching classes, and men and women getting married. A society like that of China should really be called a society of cheap tricks. This trick called marriage is connected with the problem of men and women, and also gives birth to a bunch of smaller games, such as “crawling in the dust,” “robbing the sister-in-law,” “raising the hero,” “fighting the wind,” “wearing a green bandana,” “making the genie jump,” and so on. But as regards marriage, standing above all these little tricks, so that it may in all conscience be called the “ultimate cheap trick,” is that three-headed six-armed ubiquitous demon, the “matchmaker.”
The Chinese matchmaker has the following strange features:
the basic philosophy is “successfully dragging them together”;
each marriage is at least 80 percent lies;
the “gods” and the “eight characters” are their protecting talismans.
In China, it is always said that the major power over marriage is in the hands of the parents. In actuality, although the parents are nominally the ones in control, they do not really make the decision. It is in fact the matchmaker who has decision-making power. In China anyone is qualified to be a matchmaker. Moreover, matchmaking is recognized as a kind of duty. As soon as someone has a son who needs a wife or a daughter who needs a husband, everybody and anybody around them, no matter who, is eligible to step in and join the search. For this kind of matchmaker the first thing is to have the basic philosophy of “successfully dragging them together.” Going around selling both parties on the idea that she genuinely wants the marriage to be a “success,” the matchmaker always says forcefully, you two families must make up your own minds. In fact, however, after all her badgering, even parents with iron ears have long since become limp rags. I have seen a lot of matchmakers, 80 or 90 percent of whom have been successful. The matchmaker thinks that if she can’t get the couple together it is her own fault. In the event that they do come together, and the two parties go from “unmarried” to “married,” she will have a meritorious deed to her credit. At the bottom of such a philosophy of dragging people together, one thing is indispensable: “telling lies.” Since the two families of the man and woman are not close to one another, there are many things that they do no know about each other, and the girl is locked away in the inner chambers, making it even more difficult to find out about her. So the matchmaker rambles on, making up all kinds of stories, so that on hearing them, both sets of parents will be happy. A marriage contract is written up on a sheet of paper, and thus the affair is concluded. As a result, it is frequently the case that after the marriage, the two turn out to be completely incompatible. This case of Fourth Madame She bringing together Miss Zhao and Fifth Son Wu is a perfect example of such lying. Some even go so far as to substitute another bridegroom, or switch the bride. This constitutes “a match between unmatchables,” and not just “a few little lies.” Totally incompatible marriages in which the matchmaker has simply “dragged” the couple together and then lets out a futile fart to the heavens (country people call a lie a “futile fart”) practically fill Chinese society. And why is it that one never hears of the man or the woman picking a quarrel with the matchmaker, or that of all the lawsuits in the courts, one rarely hears of one against the “old man of the moon”? On the contrary, such people get off scot-free, with money in their pockets from the fee for their services. Why is this? Thanks to the blessings of the “gods” and the “eight characters,” the responsibility is placed on the supernatural. Quite apart from the fact that the parents as usual do not blame the matchmaker, even the son and daughter can do no more than bemoan their sins in a previous life. The wrong has already been cast in bronze, and all they can do is to make the best of a bad job. This is one of the main causes preventing suitable marriages. I have already discussed this at length in yesterday’s paper.
Since matchmakers are as bad as all this, when in the future we think about marriage reform, it is imperative that we immediately do away with the matchmaker system. Vocabulary such as “matchmaker” and “the old man of the moon” must be expunged from dictionaries of the Chinese language. With the establishment of a new marriage system, provided only that the man and the woman both know in their hearts that they have a deep and mutual affection for each other they should be fully able to mate freely. If and when they want to make this clearly known to their relatives and friends, the best thing is to place a public announcement in the newspapers, declaring that the two of us want to become man and wife, and that the wedding date is set for such-and-such a month on such-and-such a day, and that’s that. Otherwise, it should also be sufficient just to register at a public office, or in the countryside to report to the local authorities. This thing called the matchmaker should be hurled beyond the highest heavens and forever forgotten. If the atmosphere in the countryside is not yet receptive, so that it is difficult for the time being to abolish the system completely, the couple should at least meet face-to-face to prevent the matchmaker from lying. And if the marriage does not work out, an inquiry can be requested in which the matchmaker cannot escape responsibility. An examination of the origins of the matchmaker system would show that it came about because the line separating men and women is drawn too deeply. Therefore, if we want to abolish the matchmaker system we must first thoroughly crack open the great prohibition against men and women meeting. In the past few days Messrs. Xincheng,  Yuying,  Borong, and Xitang  have already discussed this in detail, so I need not go over it again here.
The Problem of Superstition in Marriage (November 28, 1919)
In studying the reasons why it is still possible to maintain the old marriage system, I frequently think that it is because of one enormous superstition.
Why do I say this? At the center of marriage is love. The power of the human need for love is greater than that of any other need. Nothing except some special force can stop it. Since love is an extremely important human need and is extremely powerful, everyone should be able to find what he’s looking for, and after marriage, the relationship between husband and wife should be full of love. Why is it that, carrying a lantern as big as a house and searching the far corners of all of Chinese society, we find not even the faintest shadow of love? The two phoney billboards of “the parental command” and “the matchmaker’s word” are easily capable of completely blocking even such a great power as this. Why?
Some people reply that it is “because of China’s religion of the rites.” But how many of our 400 million people really understand what the so-called “religion of the rites” is? It goes without saying that all of China’s 200 million women are totally illiterate. All of China’s peasants and all of China’s workers and merchants can recognize only a few big characters. If we eliminate all of these, those who really understand the religion of the rites are only a small portion of those self-styled scholarly gentlemen dressed in long dark robes. Apart from the “scholarly gentlemen,” for the vast majority of uneducated women, peasants, workers, and merchants, what controls their spiritual world, and enables the two phoney billboards of “the parental command” and “the matchmaker’s word” to block this surging tide of the need for love, is none other, I believe, than “superstition.”
The greatest superstition is the theory that “marriages are determined by destiny.” Of an infant who has just dropped out of its mother’s belly, it is said that its marriage is already predestined. When the child gets a little older and develops its own need to be married, it dares not propose a partner itself, but leaves it up to the parents and a matchmaker to make arrangements. The child believes that making his own choice and leaving it up to the parental and matchmaker intermediaries amounts to the same thing, since it is already predestined and everything will be fine no matter what. The wedding is held, and the husband and wife are united. Except for those who have yielded to the irresistible natural force of love, people either throw out everything and start a big ruckus, turning the bedroom into a battleground of deadly mutual hostility, or find themselves another world outside the home, among the mulberry fields on the banks of the Pu River, where they carry on their secret amours. Apart from these, those numerous husbands and wives who are called good couples with harmonious families have the words “marriage is predestined” writ large in their brains. Thus they frequently commit to memory such maxims as, “Each generation cultivates sharing the pillow as those who cross over in the same boat have cultivated it for a hundred generations,” “The old man in the moon knots the threads,” “A match made in heaven.” Such marriages that obey the theory of destiny probably account for 80 percent of Chinese society. For these 80 percent of Chinese couples the flavor of love is an obscure mystery. You might say their marriage is good, but then again, they are often known to sigh and moan. But if you say it’s no good, they are, after all, a couple who live together in the same room, eat and sleep together, give birth to children and raise them as if their marriages really had been “made in heaven.” Following their periodic quarrels and fights, when they have calmed down a bit, they recall that “each generation cultivates sharing the pillow” and that “matches are made in heaven,” at which point they return to their original state, and go on eating and sleeping as before. It is because of this theory of predestination that the matchmaker is able to avoid responsibility. Any Chinese, even the blind and deaf, is qualified to be a matchmaker. Marital predestination is implanted in everyone’s mind, and when there is a wedding in some family, everyone, always goes along with it, whether or not the match is appropriate. You think that if you don’t go along with it, you’re certain to be condemned by the gods. You hear the saying everywhere “go along with marriage, don’t work against it.” Anyone who “investigates the prospective spouse” by inquiring from the neighbors will never hear anything bad from them. Once the bride enters the bridegroom’s house, it is considered “determined by the trigrams qian and kun,” and “celebrated with bell and drum.” After that, no one would dare back out, no matter how bad it is. All they can do is remember that “marriage is determined by destiny.” It is this theory of predestination that gives rise to such extremely irrational practices as “marriages decided in the womb” and “choosing a partner in infancy.” Everyone thinks, however, that it’s all a matter of “perfect destiny.” No one has even considered that it might be a big mistake. If you ask someone for a reason, the reply will be that “marriage is determined by destiny.” Oh, how powerful you are, “marital destiny.”
The theory that “marriage is determined by fate” is an overarching superstition, to which many other small superstitions are appended:
1) “Matching the Eight Characters.” When arranging for the marriages of their sons and daughters, it is not that Chinese parents are utterly unselective. On the contrary, they waste a lot of effort worrying about the selection of a mate for their sons and daughters. Their criteria for selecting, however, are not looks or disposition or health or learning or age, but rather only whether or not the eight characters.” There are two ways of matching the eight characters. One is to ask a fortune-teller to match them, the other is to ask a “Buddha” to match them. As long as the eight characters can be matched, even a demon can be dragged into becoming a husband or wife. In society there are many cases of a young girl being mated with an elderly husband, or of a young man taking an elderly woman to wife. In our village there is a joke, “Eighty-year-old Grandpa produced a baby, and the hundred thousand families of Changsha laughed themselves to death,” which refers to the story of an eighteen-year-old girl, married to an eighty-year- old man, having a baby. In addition, there are frequent instances of an ugly husband matched up with a beautiful wife, or a beautiful wife matched up with an ugly husband, with the consolation that “happiness and wealth come to the ugly.” None of the other factors, such as disposition or learning, are regarded as significant criteria.
2) “Registering the Dates.” After the eight characters are matched, the second step in the marriage procedure is “Registering the Dates,” in which the eight characters of both the man and the woman are written down in the Book of Dates in the presence of “the illustrious spirits.” Incense is burned and prayers are invoked that the couple may “live together to a ripe old age.” From this stage forward, the marriage is considered an ironclad case. Registering the Dates originally meant sealing the contract, but in the Book of Dates itself nothing is said about contracts. The only thing that is written down is eight big characters indicating the year, month, day, and hour. All the many really essential conditions of marriage count for nothing. How can this be considered anything but superstition?
3) “Selecting an Auspicious Day.” After registering the dates, and the exchange of presents, it is necessary to select a lucky day. It must be a day of no “evil spirits” or “taboos.” The almanac is commonly consulted for “suitable” and “impropitious” days. Next, a fortune-teller is asked to calculate the position of the stars. Then the Buddha’s permission is asked. It was at this point that Miss Zhao begged her parents to change the wedding date, to which her mother replied. “The auspicious day has already been determined and is virtually impossible to change.” Had they agreed to change the date, and waited for her elder brother to return home, it might not have been necessary to bury her on this “most auspicious day.”
4) “Sending the Sedan Chair.” This is even stupider. There is some tale to the effect that when King Zhou of the Shang dynasty was receiving his concubine, Daji, a fox-spirit changed places with her during the journey. Ever since, whenever a bride is on the way to her groom’s house, it is feared that she might become a second Daji. First, therefore, a heavy closed sedan chair must be used; second, its door must be locked tightly; and third, the “god of good luck” is entreated to offer proper protection. Some say that if on this occasion Miss Zhao had been in a light open sedan chair, not tightly locked and sealed, so that she could have been seen from outside, she might not have committed suicide.
5) “Greeting the God of Good Luck.” Seated in the dark inside a sealed sedan chair, a bride is already depressed, but when she arrives at the bridegroom’s house and the sedan chair is set down, she must also calmly greet the “god of good luck,” requesting him to “ward off unlucky influences.” On this occasion, when Miss Zhao arrived at the Wu family home, she was already about to expire, but the Wu family was just getting ready to greet the “god of good luck,” in order to “ward off unlucky influences.”
6) “Worshiping Heaven and Earth.” Worshiping heaven and earth means being presented to the ancestors. It is said that when a new bride is added to a household it is necessary to ask the ancestors to protect and assist in “giving birth to many heirs,” so that “abundant descendants may glorify the ancestors.” In the West, they do not report to their ancestors, but they do thank some God, and say that the love of the bride and groom is a gift from God, and their marriage relationship has been put together by God.
These superstitions are really just so many cheap tricks of marriage, and have no other purpose than to be the rope that tightly binds a man and woman together. Between the matchmaking and the exchange of gifts, the bride and groom are so tightly bound by the bonds of superstition that they can’t even breathe, and afterwards, they become a stable, proper, and very harmonious good couple. Miss Zhao’s marriage had, of course, gone through all the “big ceremonies” except that of “worshiping heaven and earth.”  Her choice of death was certainly closely related to these superstitions. As we put forward our call for the reform of the marriage system, it is first of all these superstitions about marriage that must be demolished, above all the belief that “marriages are decided by destiny.” Once this belief has been demolished, the pretext behind which the arrangement of marriages by parents hides itself will disappear, and “incompatibility of husband and wife” will immediately start appearing in society. As soon as incompatibility between husbands and wives manifests itself, the army of the family revolution will arise in countless numbers, and the great tide of the freedom of marriage and the freedom to love will sweep over China. Riding the crest of this tide, new husband and wife relationships will be formed wholly on the basis of a philosophy of love. At this point, I could not help associating this with a subject that everyone is talking about, “universal education.”
- The peddlers to whom Mao alludes were those who brought cotton cloth, particularly that used for women’s undergarments and for children’s clothes, to people’s homes. The point of this reference is that, unlike the men referred to under item 6 below, who hung about silk shops, women were sequestered in their houses and could only wait for the peddlers to come to them.
- Mr. Rulin is believed to be Xiao Rulin (1890-1926), a native of Hunan Province. After the 1911 revolution he became editor-in-chief of the Changsha Junguomin ribao (National Military Daily), and was deputy chief of the office of Governor Tan Yankai in 1917. The Dagongbao published his article entitled “My Views on the Suicide of Miss Zhao” on November 19, 1919.
- Tianheng (?-202 b.c.) was a nobleman of the state of Qi and a supporter of the king of Qi during the war between Chu and Han. When Liu Bang became king, Tianheng was unwilling to act as his subject, so committed suicide. Five hundred of his followers, on hearing of this incident, also took their own lives.
- The “army of Hong and Yang” refers to the forces of the Taipings. In July 1864 the capital of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was taken by Zeng Guofan’s forces, after the campaign for which Mao earlier expressed such admiration. On the day the city fell, the Xiang Army ravaged the city, looting shops and killing many people. On seeing this, officers of the Taiping army gathered up all remaining valuables and set fire to the lot, including themselves. As indicated in the note to Mao’s letter of August 23, 1917, Yang Xiuqing had, in fact, died in 1856, though the supreme leader Hong Xiuquan was still alive.
- Mr. Xinman’s identity is unknown. He was one of three authors whose articles were published in the Dagongbao under the heading “Public Opinion on the Suicide of Miss Zhao” on November 20, 1919. In his piece, he praised Miss Zhao for being a resolute person who refused to bow to circumstances, and criticized the “erroneous arguments” of Mao and others, who failed to grasp that her suicide (not suicide in general) was a “joyous event.”
- Mr. Pingzi is Zhang Pingzi (1885-1972). zi Qihan, like Mao a native of Xiangtan xian. Hunan. A member of the Tongmenghui, he became in 1919 one of the chief editors of the Hunan Dagongbao. His own arcticle entitled “I Do Not Approve of Parents Controlling Marriage” appeared in the November 22, 1919, issue.
- The identities of Yunyuan, Weiwen, and Buping are unknown. On November 20, 1919, the Dagongbao carried an article by Weiwen, “The problem of the Reform of the Marriage System,” as well as a brief note by Buping under the heading “Public Opinion on the Suicide of Miss Zhao.” An article signed Yunyuan, “My Views on Reform of the Marriage System,” was published the following day.
- Xincheng is Shu Xincheng (1893-1960), a Hunanese who was editor of Hunan Jiaoyu (Hunan Education), a monthly critical of the existing education system founded on November 1, 1919, and suppressed after its fifth issue in March 1920. At this time he was teaching at Changsha Fuxiang Girl’s School. The article to which Mao refers had appeared on November 23, 1919, in the Dagongbao.
- Yuying is Long Bojian (1879-1983), a Hunanese who had been editor-in-chief of the weekly Xin Hunan (New Hunan). His article entitled “A Question” was published in the Dagongbao on November 22, 1919.
- Borong is Li Borong (1893-1972), and Xitang is Li Youlong (1881-1953), zi Xiaoshen, hao Xitang. Their articles on the incident were published in the Dagongbao on November 22 and November 24 respectively.
- There is an apparent contradiction between Mao’s observation here and the statement, not only in the other sources on the suicide of Miss Zhao, but in Mao’s own article of November 18, to the effect that the victim cut her throat in the sedan chair while being carried to her future husband’s house, so that Orange Garden Street was “splashed with blood.” The explanation apparently lies in the account published in the Dagongbao on November 16, 1919, according to which Miss Zhao was still bleeding and did not appear to be dead when the chair was opened in front of the Wu family home, and medical attention was sought. In a macabre twist to the tale, she was taken first to the Red Cross infirmary, and then (because they had no woman doctor to treat her) to the Hunan-Yale Medical College outside the north gate, where it was too late to save her. This version is compatible with Mao’s statement, in paragraph (5) above, that when she arrived at the Wu family home, she was already “about to expire.” Assuming it is accurate, Miss Zhao did indeed live to complete all but the last of the marriage ceremonies.