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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Animal Imagery and Antiforeignism in Late Qing China

Vol. 28 No. 4   6/1998  


Animal Imagery and Antiforeignism in Late Qing China


Sin-kiong Wong









Key words

animal imagery, anti-Christian and anti-foreign movements, cold-blooded animals, Heresy exposed in respectful obedience to the Sacred Edict: A complete picture galley


      The article analyzes the relationship between the language of animal imagery and antiforeign movements in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Language, including cartoon, has been a powerful propaganda tool forChinese protesters to spread anti-Christian and ant iforeign messages. The purposes of this paper are to examine what and why specific animals were used at the time, and why connotations of these animals, such as pig, goat, tiger, lion, and turtle, have changed over the decades. More importantly, how the patterns of animal metaphors reflect the larger historical and political contexts of modern China.

    The use of animal imagery in antiforeign propaganda went through two phases during the last decades of the late Qing. Firstly, during the anti-Christian movements in the late nineteeth century, Chinese denigrated Jesus as a pig and foreigners as goats, simply by means of homophones. On the other hand, Chinese symbolized themselves as such mighty animals as tigers and lions. Secondly, after the catastrophe of the boxer Uprising of 1900, the confidence of Chinese was destroyed, and the Chinese began to realize that they were vulnerable to the forces of Western nations. Animal imagery in literature on antiforeign movements in the first years of the twentieth century, including the anti-Russian movement (1901-1905), the anti-American boycott (1905-1906), and the anti-Japanese boycott(1908), reflected this reality. Chinese becameniuma (cows and horses) or slaves of imperialists, while the tiger and wolf became the symbol of foreigners preying upon the Chinese. Unlike previous animal imagery based mainly on animals’ homophones, some animal metaphors in the antiforeign agitation in the early twentieth century were inventively based on folkloric connotations. The turtle was particularly used to satirize Chinese traitors. This kind of animals was used mainly because Chinese had awakened to their responsibilities since the turn of the century. They began to believe that military weakness of their government was not the only cause of foreign aggression, but that foreigners were taking advantages of the lack of unity among the Chinese. And at this time of national awakening, Chinese realized that not only imperialists had to be denounced but also the Chinese who collaborated with them. Hence, a new connotation of turtle and“cold-blooded animal” represented betrayers. Animal imagery in the early twentieth century thereby laid the foundation for anti-Japanese protests in the Republican era(1911-1949), when the same kind of antiforeign prop aganda prevailed.



Author: Sin-kiong Wong
Genre: Article
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