Cover: Not Just a Man’s War: Chinese Women’s Memories of the War of Resistance against Japan, 1931–45, by Yihong Pan. Collage: in the top photo, two women traipse across a dirty landscape, baskets strapped to their backs. A plume of black smoke rises in the background. In the bottom left photo, a woman gestures with a handgun in front of a Chinese flag. In the bottom right photo, a female nurse tends to a soldier’s leg while a man in suit and tie stands nearby.
272 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:15 Jul 2024

Not Just a Man’s War

Chinese Women’s Memories of the War of Resistance against Japan, 1931–45

UBC Press

In September 1931, Japan began a brutal occupation of Manchuria. In July 1937, China and Japan entered a full-scale war that ended with Japan’s defeat in 1945. The War of Resistance became the Chinese experience of the Second World War. Yet women scarcely get a mention in most accounts of the fourteen-year conflict.

Not Just a Man’s War uncovers the extraordinary stories of ordinary Chinese women who lived through the war. Through interviews, published reminiscences, and oral histories, Yihong Pan gives voice to their experiences. Communist women speak of fighting as soldiers for "a good war" and contributing to the party’s rise to power. Nationalist women attribute their survival to the strength of the human spirit while acknowledging tremendous suffering. Women from the working poor and the middle classes describe the hardships of Japanese aggression, and the victims of the sexual violence perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Army speak up.

Not Just a Man’s War treats women’s memories not only as sources for a deeper historical understanding but also as a subject worthy of critical analysis. Although the women rarely speak of feminism, they demonstrate a striking autonomy regardless of political association, socioeconomic status, or education. Attending to their insights produces a multifaceted, inclusive narrative of China’s War of Resistance.

This vivid, comprehensive account of the lives of Chinese women in war not only fills a gap for scholars and students of Chinese history, Asian studies, women’s studies, and sociology but will also engage keen readers of Chinese and military history.

Yihong Pan is a professor emerita in the History Department of Miami University, Ohio. She is the author of Son of Heaven and Heavenly Qaghan: Sui-Tang China and Its Neighbors and Tempered in the Revolutionary Furnace: China’s Youth in the Rustication Movement. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals, including Research on Women in Modern Chinese History.

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