The goal of Linglong (Elegance/La Petite) 玲瓏 magazine was “to promote the exquisite life of women, and encourage lofty entertainment in society.” Linglong was designed to be and readable from both front covers and back covers onwards to the middle and thus divided into two parts, clearly marked by the differebt front and back covers. The front cover usually featured a photograph of a woman who represented the magazine's ideal of the “New Woman”, while the back cover featured actors or actresses from (Hollywood) 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 (e.g. Essays on love/sex/family, forming the column of “Women/Funü 婦女” , written mostly by Chinese girl students, and often illustrated by authors’ portraits/photographs; Essays on pregnancy and children (e.g. health and education) in the column “Children/Ertong 兒童”; Essays on everyday life and new knowledge in the column of “Common Knowledge/Changshi 常識”). Articles and illustrations and photographs that one encountered reading from the back cover, in the section on “Entertainment/Yule 娛樂” were concerned with Gossip and news about fashions and life styles of (Hollywood) movie stars.
The very name of the journal, Linglong —which one could translate as ‘elegance,’ that is, ‘distinct refinement’—can be considered programmatic. The name is carefully chosen. The first editions of the journal do not contain explanatory statements or editorials, but repeat two short descriptive sentences. Linglong wants to create new social and cultural aspirations: it hopes to contribute ‘beauty and grace (youmei 優美) to women’s lives’ as well as offering ‘high-minded amusement (gaoshang yule 高尚娛樂) to society at large.’ The name of the journal is shorthand for these aims: grace (beauty, elegance and refinement), and high-mindedness (skill, intelligence and cleverness) are two important elements associated with the term Linglong 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 (long 瓏 are gems in the form of a dragon), and thus stands for fine and pretty sounds (yasheng 雅聲). Thus, linglong describes exquisite sounds and splendid, fine and sophisticated objects, such as (women’s) handcrafted openwork, for example. In this sense, linglong is used in poetic works (prominently by Han Yu (768-824) to capture the refined beauty of the plum blossom and the daintiness of snowflakes. Obviously, fragility and clarity, or ‘refined graciousness’ are part of the concept of beauty that linglong stands for. Secondly, by homonymic association, linglong may also be written with a different character ling 靈 (ingenious, smart, intelligent). Some interpretations therefore also liken linglong to linghuo 靈活 (lively, also and especially in terms of mental activities) and jingqiao 精巧 (smart and clever). To be linglong is to be high-minded, then, evenin the most literal sense of the word.
Barbara Mittler, Liying Sun