• Fri 07 – Sat 08 11 2014 •
From Concubine to Migrant Worker? - Women in China

Colloquium with a supporting program

This event is organized by the Academy of Arts of the World, Cologne, and the East Asian Seminar (Department for Chinese Culture), University of Cologne.

Venue: Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, Apostelnkloster 13–15, 50672 Cologne
2 days 14 € / 10 €, 1 day 8 € / 6 €

When Mao Zedong proclaimed the liberation of Chinese women from social subor-dination and dependency in China’s patriarchal cultural and political system, his oft-quoted declaration, “women hold up half the sky,” became a model for many post-colonial developments, as well as a battle cry for women’s movements in China and around the world.

In reality, his declaration affected change that had already begun in early revolutionary China; women had been encouraged to move out of the household and into production and agriculture industries, and to participate in the military resurgence of the young nation state.

In the context of a China rapidly adapting to global processes, the question of womens’ role and status in China can be newly raised. As before, women in today’s China are only marginally visible in politics and the economy, however they are active in all sectors of society, and have shaped the social sphere in more ways than is generally known.

colloquium “From Concubine to Migrant Worker?” explores the role and position of women in contemporary Chinese society and how these aspects have historically developed, and attempts look into the future for women in China. Along with the international scholars and artists invited to participate in the program, women will share their experiences and give insights into everyday life in China, presenting also a program of music and poetry alongside the two-day event.

Organizers: Tienchi Martin-Liao, member of the Academy of Arts of the World, Prof. Dr. Stefan Kramer, Chair of the department of Chinese Culture, University of Cologne Coordinators: Ulrike Traub, Cheng Mo, Melanie Räuschel, Sarah Kron Contact:,

From Concubine to Migrant Worker? Women in China is a collaboration between the Academy of Arts of the World, Cologne, and the East Asian Seminar (Department of Chinese Culture), University of Cologne. It is part of the autumn program of the Academy PLURIVERSALE I.

panel discussion, reading, Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, 07./08.11.2014  Anna Kallage


(Program in Chinese)

Fri 7 11 2014


Musical prelude (on the Guzheng): Li Juefei


Welcome: Ekaterina Degot, Tienchi Martin-Liao, Prof. Stefan Kramer



Panel discussion: Qin Liwen (scientist/journalist, Berlin), Zeng Jinyan (author, Hongkong), Dr. Astrid Lipinsky (sinologist, University of Vienna), Moderator: Tienchi Martin-Liao (author, Academy member, Cologne), Interpreter: Su Xiaoqin

According to a global report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), women in China occupy 32 percent of all senior management positions, compared to 23 percent in the United States. Chinese women also rank twentieth in the general labor force, while German women rank forty-sixth. This is because it is not only women in management, but also factory, migrant, and rural workers who have significantly contributed to the economic growth of China. Millions of women leave their families and villages to become assembly-line workers in cities. Prostitution is also a flourishing industry. The lure of power, money, and sex leads some women to pursue the life of a concubine. The complex situation facing women in China is debated in this panel discussion by scientists and authors from Hong Kong and Europe.





Readings: Ma Jian (author, London), Huang Gang (poet, Taiwan)
Group discussion, moderated: Sabine Peschel (sinologist/journalist, Cologne) Reading: Anna Kozikowski (member oft he Youth Academy of the Arts oft he World, Cologne)
Interpreter: Tienchi Martin-Liao

Hong Ying is one of the most well-known contemporary writers in China, and her work has been translated into several Western languages. Raised in extreme poverty, Hong Ying left China one and a half years after the brutal suppression of student protests at Tiananmen Square, and spent several years as a student in London. Drawing on personal experience, Hong Ying conveys a vivid picture of modern Chinese society, bringing a sharp analysis of the political dislocation facing China into her work, albeit by indirect means. In Cologne, she will read passages from her autobiographical novel Daughter of the River.

Huang Gang is a young poet from Taiwan. Her strong engagement with the culture and language of her native land is explored through poems and texts that reveal her connection to home.


Closing music: Li Juefei

Sat 8 11 2014



Panel discussion with: Bei Ling (poet/publisher, Taipei), Su Yutong (journalist/blogger, Bonn), Moderator: Prof. Stefan Kramer (Chair, department of Chinese Culture, University of Cologne), Interpreter: Tienchi Martin-Liao

Along with sociopolitical power relations in China, the mass media in China, as with the rest of the world, remains a predominantly male field, in keeping with the shaping of late-industrial information society. In this panel discussion, academic and media professionals discuss the extent in which shifts in digital media have affected this apparent standstill. Could such changes also cause other shifts in media representation, institutional decision making, and public media policy in China to come into play, sidestepping existing masculine bias and opening doors for new players on the scene?





Film screening „Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters”, 2007, Direction: Ban Zhongyi (Tokio) (ca. 40 min.). Panel discussion with: Ban Zhongyi, Gabriela Mischkowski (cofounder of Medica Mondiale, Cologne), Moderator: Karin Fischer (journalist, Cologne), Interpreter: Su Xiaoqin

The sexual abuse of women in times of war has for a long time been a topic of taboo. The estimated two million German women who were raped at the end of the Second World War are witnesses to this silence. To this day, sexual violence against women is used as a systematic “weapon,” as for example in the recent war in Bosnia, in Rwanda, and in the Congo. During the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), the forced prostitution of women from China, Korea, and other Asian countries was played down under the euphemistic term “comfort women.” To maintain the morale of Japanese soldiers, and to guard against the violation of the civilian population, up to two hundred thousand women and girls were forced into sexual service for the military. Director Ban Zhongyi will screen his documentary on the survivors of this tragic chapter in Asian history. A discussion on the topic of women as victims of war will follow the screening, with Gabriela Mischkowski, cofounder of Medica Mondiale.

All events will be held in German and Chinese.

panel discussion, reading, Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, 07./08.11.2014  Anna Kallage