International Women’s Day in China: Why is it so Popular?

International Women’s Day is March 8. Did you know that this is a popular holiday celebrated across China?

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration of women’s social and cultural achievements and gender equality. The holiday was inspired by the work of feminists in New Zealand, Europe, and America. In New York City, 1910, German delegates at the International Socialist Women’s Conference proposed a women’s holiday be celebrated annually. The idea took hold and spread around the world. It was adopted by the UN as a global holiday in 1977.

How to say International Women’s Day in Chinese

There are several different ways to say International Women’s Day in Chinese:

  • International Women’s Day: 国际妇女节 Guójì Fùnǚjié
  • March 8 holiday (3/8): 三八节 Sānbājié
  • Queen’s Day: 女王节 Nǚwáng jié
  • Goddess Day: 女神节 Nǚshénjié

This March 8, wish the women in your life a Happy International Women’s Day! On this holiday, we can all focus on appreciating the women in our life and building a safe world for girls to grow up in. 祝你们国际妇女节快乐!

Why is International Women’s Day in China so popular?

The popularity of IWD today is rooted in Chinese history. Women occupied a lower position than men in traditional Chinese society. They lived primarily inside the home, had little independence in who they married, limited work options, and could even be sold to earn the family extra money. Compared with this past, the position of Chinese women today is indeed an extreme transformation. IWD is a chance for Chinese society to look afresh at the progress of women in society and to seek even better opportunities for women of all backgrounds and classes.

In 1949, the year of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, March 8 was declared an official holiday. International Women’s Day had officially arrived in China. Mao Zedong famously said, “Women hold up half the sky.” This idea, as well as new laws passed within the PRC that gave women greater control over their marriages and economic futures, helped to combat old ideas that men and boys were more important. Women were able to secure rights that they didn’t have before, such as greater independence, the ability to go to school, marry and divorce, and be elected to public office.

Women Hold Up Half the Sky: 妇女能顶半边天 Fùnǚ néng dǐng bànbiāntiān

International Women's Day in China

As women claimed a greater share of social and economic rights, they were recognized for their role as vital members and contributors to building Chinese society. IWD is very popular across China for this reason!

How do Chinese celebrate International Women’s Day?

On IWD, Chinese companies provide benefits to their female employees including half a day off of work, bonuses, small gifts, or handwritten notes expressing appreciation. There are plenty of online sales for women’s products on online shopping platforms like JD, Tmall, and Taobao.

Women, companies, and social organizations often use this day to raise awareness about issues affecting women today. In the past, companies have released highly rated campaigns about women’s self-care, body image issues, natural beauty, and self-confidence. Other organizations campaign to raise awareness for serious issues such as sexual harassment, mental health issues among women, the disparity between rural and urban women, and discrimination in the office or workplace.

There is some controversy over IWD celebrations in China. Some feminists say that the holiday should not turn into just a shopping holiday, and should instead be for tackling women’s issues such as health and safety. Domestic violence, particularly against women from rural areas with fewer resources to help them, continues to be an issue in China. Though China has anti-domestic violence laws, there is a long way to go for sufficient legal and social protections for vulnerable women. IWD is a chance for Chinese women to speak up and highlight their continued efforts for safety and equality.

If you want to read more about women in China, feminism, and gender issues, you can check out this International Women’s Day in China book list! These are some of the best books about women in China today and in recent history.

  1. Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China by Leta Hong Fincher
  2. Out to Work: Migration, Gender, and the Changing Lives of Rural Women in Contemporary China by Arianne M Gaetano
  3. Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding by Dorothy Ko
  4. Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China by Leta Hong Fincher
  5. The Emerging Lesbian: Female Same-Sex Desire in Modern China by Tze-Lan D. Sang
  6. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T Chang
  7. Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China by Jung Chang

Learn More About Chinese Culture

How to Say 10 Winter Holidays in Chinese
Three Chinese Phrases that Celebrate Women. Happy International Women’s Day!
女 Women in Chinese Characters
6 Best Chinese Language Textbooks For Total Beginners

Savannah Billman has a master's degree in Chinese Law and Society at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. She holds a B.A. from NYU Shanghai and has also written for The World of Chinese, TechNode, SupChina, and Sixth Tone.
Savannah Billman
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