Today we will turn our focus to a Beijing heroine. Sai Jinhua was born in Yancheng, Jiangsu, on Oct. 9, 1872. She was known as a Chinese courtesan. Her real name has not been determined since she used many names. Sai, lived in Suzhou, when she was young. It is said that she was an orphan. Historyandwomen. com, states that she was turned into a prostitute at the age of 12. Her brother facilitated her prostitution, by having her service the wealthy patrons, on his river boat. According to Wikipedia, she used the name of Fu Caiyun, while she was prostituting. According to Wikipedia, it was during her years of prostitution that she met a wealthy business official, by the name of Hong Jun. They were together for three years. Hong Jun took her on his travels to Europe.
Historyofwomen.com, explains that women in China, in that time period, never traveled; therefore, traveling gave her an opportunity not afforded other women of her time. The Empress Dowager Cixi, appointed Sai Jinhua as an envoy to Europe from China. While the historyofwomen site goes on to say that, Sai Jinhua made good of her time in Europe “by learning German, studying fashion, and making a splash among society’s elite, because of her uniqueness, dress, and tiny feet, that had been painfully bound since childhood.” Sai Jinhua and Hong Jun returned to China three years later; however, Hong Jun died. It is said that Sai Jinhua’s family were shamed by her profession and broke all ties; leaving her alone. Since she was homeless and destitute, she decided to open her own brothel. The brother did rather well; largely due to her former connection with Hong Jun.
The Boxer Rebellion
The event in Chinese history known as the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, helped Sai Jinhua become even more important Briefly speaking, the Boxer Rebellion, started when a group of Chinese rebels, began ousting foreigners, who may have had influence on the Chinese culture and way of life. The leaders of the rebellion were also anti-imperialists. Empress Dowage Cixi, declared war on the foreign power. Von Waldersee, a German General, marched into China and ended the Rebellion. Sai Jinhua because significant during the aftermath of the rebellion, because she was able to speak German.
Though it is more rumor than fact, Sai Jinhua was also said to have saved many of her people from being beheaded. Her fame helped her brothel business until it was said that she beat one of her prostitutes and then she was banished to Shanghai. She married twice during that time frame. Life was not easy for her and she moved to Tianqiao using an assumed name. A journalist found out her true identity; leading to the renewed interest and good will of her people. They remembered how she saved many lives during the rebellion and they donated money and gifts to help her.
Was Sai Jinhua a nationalist, or could she have been a liar? The controversy continued even after her death in 1936. Either way, Sai Jinhua is remembered as a national hero.