Shortly before she died, author Lijia Zhang's grandmother told her a secret: She'd met her husband, Lijia's grandfather, while working as a prostitute in the 1930s and 1940s.
"She was a working girl and met him on job, eventually becoming his concubine," Lijia says.
She says it was her grandmother's experiences that inspired the 51-year-old's upcoming novel Lotus, a story about prostitution in China.
"Writing this book was very difficult," says Lijia.
"Her tragic saga did make me think a lot about the position of women in China."
Lijia was just one of the prominent Chinese women writers featured at this year's Bookworm International Literary Festival, held in Beijing and across six other Chinese cities from March 23 to 29.
The independently run event is the biggest annual gathering of its kind in China, and drew more than 50,000 guests to its 300 events.
One of the festival themes was gender equality, and as a guest author Lijia believes it helped provide a platform for discussion about women's rights .
"Having such public discussions means people are more aware," says Lijia...
Lijia says although China is yet to witness a fully formed feminist movement, there has been a marked increase in activism in recent years.
She notes the 2012 protest where a dozen women queued in front of restrooms to protest the lack of public toilets for women and a 2013 demonstration involving 10 university students criticising what she calls "invasive gynaecological exams" imposed on women applying for civil service jobs.
Lijia believes this growing restlessness is also reflected in the nation's literature. "It's an interesting development, women writers now write with a clear gender consciousness."More at Al Jazeera.
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