Ling long Women's Magazine

About Ling long > The Magazine

Every female student had an issue of Ling long magazine in hand during the 1930s. On the one hand, Ling long imparted the beauty secrets of movie stars, and on the other hand instructed "beautified" and "made up" girls how to keep close guard against the attacks of men, because all men harbor bad intentions. True dating is dangerous, but marriage is even more dangerous, because marriage is the tomb of dating.

      Female Shanghai author Zhang Ailing,
      "Talking About Women" (1944)

Between 1931 and 1937, the Sanhe publishing company, located on Nanjing Road in Shanghai, published Ling long magazine, which they called Linloon magazine in English. This pocket-sized weekly stood only 13 centimeters high. According to the first issue, the magazine cost seven fen 分 (7/100ths) of a foreign ounce of silver or 21 copper coins and an extra two fen (2/100ths) of a foreign ounce of silver in other cities. Mr. Lin Zecang was the main backer of the magazine. The editorial board included Mr. Zhou Shexun (entertainment), Ms. Chen Zhenling (women's features), and Mr. Lin Zemin (photography). Both men and women contributed photographs and articles, though the majority of articles appear to have been written by women as indicated by the title nushi 女士 (lady) placed next to their name.

The goal of the magazine was "to promote the exquisite life of women, and encourage lofty entertainment in society." The magazine was divided into two parts, indicated by the front and back covers. The front cover usually featured a photograph of a woman who represented the magazine's ideal of the modern woman, while content on the back cover was usually related to the cinema. The magazine was read in both directions. The articles that read from front to back were usually more instructional and related to women's issues. Articles and photographs that read from the back cover were often concerned with entertainment or unusual feature stories.

The word ling long 玲 瓏 (elegant and fine) has an etymology that reaches back to a collection of onomatopoetic words from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) signifying the sounds of pieces of jade clinking together.¹ The classical meaning of ling long also connoted delicate female handiwork. The editors of Ling long magazine redefined this word to mean modern female style. Just like the onomatopoetic sound of the word ling long, articles and photographs on the magazine's pages reverberated like clinking jade. Although certain columns on movies, child-rearing, and legal advice appeared with some regularity, the magazine did not maintain a standard format, and articles often contradicted one another. For example, one article might have showcased the latest movies from Hollywood, while another article attempted to drum up xenophobic patriotism. These different viewpoints came together like clinking pieces of jade in the cacophony that was Ling long magazine.

¹ Craig Clunas, Superfluous Things (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 85.


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