Widow’s Memorial Arch – Sichuan

Widow's Memorial Arch in Sichuan, China. Photo by Wilson Edward Manly, courtesy USC.
Widow’s Memorial Arch in Sichuan, China. Photo by Wilson Edward Manly courtesy USC.

Reading Gail Hershatter‘s The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past for a class this week and I was piqued by the mentions of the memorial arches (牌坊) that were erected under imperial decree for women who had stayed faithful to their long-deceased husbands. (They’re also extensively mentioned in Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China, by Matthew Sommer.

I found this image on USC’s International Mission Photography Archive. The main heading reads 一門三節 yī-mén sān-jié – “one family, three chaste [widows]”. Must have been a particularly great honor in those days.

The Hunanese Anti-Christian Tract


Professor Zheng showed this picture as an example of the anti-Christian (especially anti-missionary) sentiment sweeping through China in the last decade of the 19th century. I was intrigued – why had the artist chosen a pig to represent Jesus? I began searching, and found that this was part of a longer tract missionaries had translated into English as Heresy Exposed in Respectful Obedience to the Sacred Edict: A Complete Picture Gallery 謹遵聖喻皮屑全圖. (PDF here)

Though vulgar and cruel, it’s a fascinating read. As it turns out, the artist had chosen the pig as 豬 zhu was a near homophone to the 主 in 天主 Tianzhu (the Catholic word for God). Elsewhere in the tract, the painter depicted foreigners as goats, playing off of the term 洋人 yangren. It paints a picture of foreigners as organ-harvesters (a Sinitic form of blood libel, perhaps?), fornicators, and Chinese who followed their teachings as traitors and cuckolds.