Jun 272015
 
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Jun’an township, Shunde, (South China’s Guangdong Province).On Christmas Day, 2014 a special museum was opned to honour the zishunü, women. These are women who are in their 80-90 years of age. In their early years, they took a vow to remain single. They were identified by their hair which was done up in a bun. (Those that emigrated to Singapore also wore hair buns and red articles of clothing).The custom dates back to the early 19th century in the southern part of Guangdong province.The Role of the Mother

Having taken a lifelong vow of chastity, it became the

role of the mother to make her daughter a “self-combed woman.” The daugher would then dress in the red clothes of traditional brides. In addition, to the vow of chastity, the

zishunü women also swore to support their families for the rest of their lives.

Sister Communities

Many zishunü women lived in female communities with other zishunü. One widow joined a community and supported her children. This leads me to wonder if many of these women were lesbian.

Some zishunü women  collected funds together to build group homes. In 1950, the Bingyutang courtyard, which now hosts the museum, was built in Jun’an, funded by more than 500 zishunü, including 400 having worked in Singapore.

The courtyard used to house over 30 zishunü at one time. But as many passed away or chose to live with their relatives, the Bingyutang has become a site for those still alive to meet and care for the memorial tablets of all their fellows who have passed away.

Samsui Women (Singapore)

These are zishunü women from Guangdong Province who between 1920-1940 emigrated to Singapore. They wore red cloth hats as recognition. They also lived in communities of Samsui women. This again, makes me think that many were lesbians.

 Let’s Look at these Happy Women


 

Two zishunü, Huang Li’e (left), 87, and Huang Qihuan, 94, chat in Bingyutang, their former home. Photo: CFP
Two zishunü, Huang Li’e (left), 87, and Huang Qihuan, 94, chat in Bingyutang, their former home. Photo: CFP 

A group photo of zishunü is shown by lighter flames in a dark house built by returned zishunü in Gaobu township, Dongguan, Guangdong Province. Photo: CFP
A group photo of zishunü is shown by lighter flames in a dark house built by returned zishunü in Gaobu township, Dongguan, Guangdong Province. Photo: CFP 

Four zishunü play dominoes after lunch in Jun’an township, Shunde, Guangdong Province. Photo: CFP
Four zishunü play dominoes after lunch in Jun’an township, Shunde, Guangdong Province. Photo: CFP 

Huang Qihuan, 94, a zishunü in Shunde, buys vegetables.  Her relatives attempted to hire a carer for her, but she refused and insists on living by herself. Photo: CFP
Huang Qihuan, 94, a zishunü in Shunde, buys vegetables. Her relatives attempted to hire a carer for her, but she refused and insists on living by herself. Photo: CFP 

A zishunü walks past displays in Bingyutang Museum in Shunde, which houses over 100 objects from the lives of zishunü. Photo: CFP
A zishunü walks past displays in Bingyutang Museum in Shunde, which houses over 100 objects from the lives of zishunü. Photo: CFP

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