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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 19(2); 2010 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 2010;19(2): 459-486.
Eugenics Discourse and Racial Improvement in Republican China (1911-1949)
Kyu hwan Sihn
Department of Medical History, College of Medicine, Yonsei Univ. 134 Shinchon-Dong, Seodaemun-Ku, Seoul, Korea. jerryq@yonsei.ac.kr
This paper aimed to examine the advent of eugenics and its characteristics in republican China. Although eugenics was introduced into China as a discourse to preserve and improve race by the 1898 reformers such as Yan Fu (1854-1921) and Yi Nai (1875-?) in the late imperial period, it was not until the republican period that eugenics discourse started to combine with the discourse and movement related to social reform. The May 4th intellectuals put forward criticisms of Confucian patriarchy, propagating science and democracy. They pointed out that the large family system was a source of every social evil, and argued the need for a small family system based on monogamy. The aim of the small family system was to improve both the race and the environment. Such thinkers argued that freedom of love and the liberation of individuality were necessary for this end. Zhou Jianren (1888-1984), Lu Xun's youngest brother and representative eugenicist in the May 4th period, combined eugenics with freedom of love and the liberation of individuality. Pan Guangdan (1899-1967) and Zhou Jianren debated the eugenics controversy in the 1920s. They raised the freedom of love and the liberation of individuality as central issues related to the eugenics controversy. The eugenics debate was developed into the controversy between biological determinism and environmentalism in the late 1920s. However, these issues did not continue to be brought up in the 1930s. The main issues concerning the eugenics controversy in the 1930s were cultural identity and the population problem. Particularly in the 1930s, the scope of birth control as the solution to the population problem was extended from the individual person and family to nation and race. For eugenicists like Pan Guangdan, birth control violated the aim of eugenics and brought about the degeneration of the race. However, such theorists did not deny the value of birth control itself. The supporters of birth control thought that selecting superior descendents and eliminating inferior descendents fit with the ideals of eugenics. They thought that the propagation of contraception could suppress the increase of inferior and weak descendents, and result in the improvement of the race. Physicians suggested the necessity of birth control and organized birth control clinic, Chinese society did not pay attention to their arguments and activities in 1920s. After birth control made at issue from the 1930s, physicians started to discuss eugenics and play the important role in the medical practice. Chinese physicians passed a resolution of birth control for mothers and children's happiness and health and public health in 1930s.As a result, Chinese intellectuals supported eugenics and supported the proposition that eugenics could improve the race. On the basis of this situation, the Guomindang government legislated eugenic laws related to contraception, eugenic marriage, and sterilization and the isolation of hereditary defaulters in 1945.
Key Words: Eugenics, Yan Fu, Zhou Jianren, Pan Guangdan, birth control, population problem, contraception
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