Volume 19, Issue 1, 2022
Conceptual History: China, Asia, and the Global
The Political Phenomenology of Banbiantian (Half the Sky)
Reconstruction of Women’s Status and Role in New China
The proclamation Banbiantian (半边天 Half the Sky), which was proposed during the Mao era, is a vivid and straightforward appellation of women in new China that has gained popularity in national and folk discourses over the past seven decades. This article disassembles this term into three elements — quotation marks, Banbian (半边 Half), and tian (天 Sky) — to conduct a political phenomenological analysis. By exploring and sorting reports related to Banbiantian in Renmin ribao, this article reflects on changes in relation to status and role of women in the Mao era on the basis of three findings. Firstly, the quotation marks make Banbiantian a symbol of women’s actual experience and ideal image while playing a role in enhancement and guidance. Secondly, Banbian indicates the equal ratio of men and women and symbolizes the dynamic adjustment in determining equal rights, demonstrating equal capabilities, and improving equal status. Thirdly, tian is the scope of women’s liberation. Through women’s participation in public labor and political activities, coupled with balanced national and regional coordination, its scope continues to expand, extending from the family to society and the country.