In the Qing Dynasty, the saying that 女子无才便是德 (A woman’s virtue is to have no talent) was very common, and most women were not allowed to learn how to read and write. However, the Qing women created Nvshu, which is the world’s only script designed and used exclusively by women.
After exploring online archives on Nvshu, I found that the configuration of the language looks like body movements. My experience of being asked “why do you participate in such violent exercises like boxing, AS A GIRL” has made me an advocate for such sports. I believe that girls can be active and participate in whatever they choose. I took a group of photos in which I used my own body to imitate characters of Nvshu. I am in my gym clothes, showing my body and the muscle gained from years of workouts. I also included my crutches which I received after an injury from skiing. Doing sports is my passion, it is my choice to be active, even I am a girl.
I translated a poem from Shanguan Wan’er into Nvshu using an online dictionary and trying to be the characters using my body. Shangguan Wan'er (664-710), a female official, poet and imperial concubine of the Tang Dynasty. After her grandfather offended the imperial power, her family was killed, and she was assigned to the inner court as a maid. However, Shangguan Wan'er was highly valued by the Emperor because of her intelligence and good writing skills. She was eventually becoming a concubine and had power over the court. In 710, she was killed in a coup d'état. The poem was a letter to her husband, who is the Emperor and also her foe, meaning “The letter did not write about anything else, but about the long-standing love and melancholy.” Through these pieces, I engender a rebellious and fearless attitude for female-identifying people who want to take ownership of their lives.
I also included a calligraphy of this poem in Nvshu.
2in × 3in × 4in
Foot binding is a diabolically perfect method for satisfying men’s desire to control women in order to preserve their chastity and restrict their movements. To critique this outrageous tradition, I made the piece Somatic Sensation , in which I cast my own foot using melted leftover candles that my husband used when he proposed to me. The new warm “candle” was squeezed into the shape of a bound foot, where I experienced a somatic sensation of pain in my bones. I have experienced numerous failures in my attempts to squeeze the foot into the “correct” shape, but each failure has left me with a deep sense of the oppression and despair that the squeezing process has caused me. The bones of a three- year-old child’s feet were almost fully formed, but their intellect was not yet fully developed. As you can imagine, these girls once had a pair of normal feet just like me, but they had to wrap them in cloth and make them into a “right” shape. They were confined to their homes in this way before they even knew what freedom was, and they never had a choice.
gauze, wax, flexible foam, copper, rubber, dimensions variable
Chinese civilization has been inherited from generation to generation, from ancient patriarchal society up to modern times. With the spread of new beliefs and the ideas of gender equality becoming more mainstream, women are beginning to play a unique role in social life. Even so, today women remain at a disadvantage compared to men in both the realm of family and the country’s larger social structures. Ingrained beliefs prevent women from being fully equal to men. Most of my work critiques women’s position within Chinese culture and responds to its historical traditions and so my thesis is a history overview of women’s position throughout Chinese history.
I printed my thesis into a scroll, which is finely covered in silk. My work Move on is a performance in which I am scrolling the scroll up, putting it into a box then storing it on a shelf. I am wearing a Chinese wedding dress that I wear everyday while doing my housework during the pandemic. Scrolls are usually used for recording and archiving purposes. The action of rolling up the scroll here is to express that history is already far away, but what is in history makes me wake up. We need to look better into the future.
Video record of a performance
My work exists at the intersection of contemporary feminism and Chinese cultural tradition. This intersection has personal resonance for me as my lineage goes back to the royal Qing Dynasty. During the Cultural Revolution, people from the royal families were persecuted and criticized, the records of their histories were destroyed. To address this loss, I create sculptural representations of ancient familial objects used by my female ancestors.
As a newly married wife who is far from home, the private domestic arena is another pervasive theme. I have translated my personal experiences as a newlywed in the time of COVID into sculptures and performances that draw from the residue of history to explore the contemporary state of feminism. I utilize humor and scale as methodologies to critique and heal historical legacies.
I use materials that tell stories, embody meaning, history, and the residue of women's lived experiences to create my installations; the Escape was created from silk of a worn Chinese wedding dress and the wax used to cast my foot are from leftover candles that my husband used when he proposed to me. I transform Chinese symbols such as the winged bat figure that symbolizes luck into an oversized hairpin signifies a strong female figure. The stains on the wedding dress in my performance Housework were created by wearing this traditional garment while doing daily housework since the onset of COVID lockdown. And cut out the silk of the wedding dress while I am wearing it to a lantern shade that illuminates the shackles of sexism. I utilize objects as well my physical body to tangle with conceptions of beauty. I weaponize the artifacts of secret women’s culture to create sculptures, photography, time-based works and performances, to attack the brutal past when women were oppressed and harmed. I cast my foot and squeezed it in the shape of bound foot, which left me with a physical picture of the oppression that women in ancient times were experiencing. The squeezing process prompting me try to feel their pain and despair.
Chinese multimedia artist currently live and work in the SF Bay area. A mathematician and a data scientist who unwavering dedication to art. My work examines the estranged relationship I have to my royal lineage of the Qing Dynasty and the intersection of feminism and Chinese cultural traditions. Also, as a newly married wife, who has moved from living alone to married life, I was inspired to consider the roles of women in history and in modern society. I use materials that tell stories, embody meaning, history, and the residue of women's lived experiences. I use my own body as part of my works, giving my sculptures a performance perspective. Combining elements of historical stories and humor, I also include violence in almost every piece, hoping to express my attitude in this way.