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New Book by Goodman: The Suicide of Miss Xi

Written by April Winz • August 12, 2022


Bryna Goodman, professor of History, recently published a new book, The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic (Harvard University Press 2021).  

Death and Democracy

This book examines the suicide of Miss Xi, the first female employee of the Journal of Commerce newspaper, and the effects her death had on Shanghai. It discusses how Xi became a symbol for the failures and problems of the Chinese Republic in the early 1920s. By focusing on Shanghai and the suicide of Miss Xi, Goodman is able to examine how China’s early passage through democratic populism was navigated and to analyze an understudied area of early Republican politics in China.  

“The circumstances of Xi Shangzhen’s suicide and the events it unleased are crucial to understanding why and how, for the arbiters of Shanghai society, this suicide so ‘greatly shook public opinion’ that in the course of the ‘tremendous social furor’ that ensued, ‘not a pen remained dry.’ Some facts were quickly established. Others were mysterious, hinted at only in rumors, silences, odd behavior, or peculiar choices of words. Further material (some of it possibly manufactured) was unearthed, attested, and contested in investigations undertaken by journalists, public associations, and the Chinese court in the weeks and months that followed.” 

Bryna Goodman

Bryna Goodman is a professor of history, specializing in the history of modern China, at the University of Oregon. She has written extensively on early 20th century China with other works including Twentieth-Century Colonialism and China: Localities, the Everyday, and the World (co-authored with David Goodman) and Gender in Motion: Divisions of Labor and Cultural Change in Modern China (co-authored with Wendy Larson). 

April Winz is a communications specialist for the History Department and General Social Sciences Program at the University of Oregon.