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Qiu Jin was born in Shanghai, China on November 10th, 1877 and lived with her parents and grandparents in a small home near the ocean. When Qiu Jin was 12 her mother died during the birth of her second child. The baby boy was named Zihao but was frail and died only a week later. Qiu Jin’s father, Gen Jin, was distraught. He told his daughter to stay in Shang Hai with her grandparents and that he would be taking a ship to California. Gen hoped to still profit from the search for gold. News had not traveled fast enough to China for him to learn that the rush was mostly over and it was currently illegal to employ Chinese immigrants.

Qiu Jin could not stand the idea of losing her father as well. When she heard of his plans to leave, she quickly packed what she could and sneaked onto the ship that her father was a passenger on. When they arrived in San Francisco Qiu Jin revealed herself to her father. He was angry but could not turn his back on his only daughter. Qiu Jin’s father quickly learned that there was a lot of discrimination against their people and finding work was difficult. The pair of them remained homeless for nearly a month before another Chinese family found Gen work on a farm.

The small farm was outside of San Francisco and was owned by Albert and Clara Hudson. They currently employed a Chinese man named Feng Hwang and allowed his wife, Biyu Hwang, to live on the premises. Albert Hudson believed that Chinese men were the best and most loyal workers so agreed to take on Gen Jin as well. Gen worked hard on the farm for over 3 years. Qiu Jin spent this time with Biyu Hwang who taught her to appreciate her Chinese heritage. Biyu was like a second mother to Qiu Jin.

Biyu Hwang was also a master of Chinese medicine. Qiu Jin learned about herbs, acupuncture, and the yin and yang of the human body. Biyu told Qiu Jin that some people might think these methods were fake but that they were rooted in long tradtion. One morning in the winter of 1892 Qiu Jin went into town to buy more herbs for her studies. The Geary act had been recently passed that required all Chinese immigrants to carry permits to prove they were in the country legally. Qiu Jin knew to keep to herself and get in and out of stores quickly so that she could avoid being caught. A lot of protestors from both sides had been causing riots.

Qiu Jin returned to the farm to find Clara screaming and Albert running past her chasing after some young white men. The guest house on the property that both Chinese families had lived in was on fire. Qiu Jin ran towards the flames but Clara quickly grabbed her and told her it was too late. Soon Albert returned. He had not caught up with the men who had committed this hate crime. Qiu Jin was in shock and when the Hudson’s told her she could stay in the main house with them she agreed.

Qiu Jin tried her best to overcome her loss quickly. She distracted herself with cleaning and doing menial tasks for Clara Hudson. She knew she had to at least be grateful to these people who continued to support her livelihood. Qiu Jin was also beginning to notice that she was becoming a woman. She was now 15 and could tell her body was changing. Many nights during supper she found herself staring at Albert Hudson and feeling very strange.

Albert Hudson was in his late 30’s but was still fit from his hands-on involvement with the farm. His relationship with his wife, Clara, was strained because Clara could not conceive a child. It didn’t take long for Albert to notice the stares of Qiu Jin. He had not paid much attention to the girl before but now that she lived in his house he noticed how beautiful she was. She was petite and fair like a precious doll. He began to make more and more excuses to see her and talk with her. Qiu Jin’s wide eyed gaze boosted his ego.

When Qiu Jin turned 16 Albert came into her room at night. He handed her a present: a Chinese toy he had imported from China. It was a little doll with rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. Qiu Jin accepted the doll but told Albert she was much too old to play with toys. He told her that it represented her, she was his China Doll.

Their affair began that night and lasted for over a year. Qiu Jin loved Albert. but even more than that she loved having sex with Albert. Qiu Jin finally felt alive. The two would meet secretly in Qiu Jin’s room almost every night. Afterwards Albert would return to bed with his wife. They were very careful and very quiet.

One night Albert fell fast asleep after their love making. Qiu Jin was too happy to wake him and they slept side by side in her bed. In the morning Clara found them together. Enraged, she violently grabbed Qiu Jin by the arm and dragged her from the room. She didn’t say a word to Qiu Jin and they took a carriage together to the San Francisco train station. Clara went to the ticket counter and purchased a ticket for the next train. She shoved Qiu Jin onboard and never looked back.

The train Qiu Jin had been forced onto was headed to Denver, Colorado. Qiu Jin was scared and alone with none of her belongings. When she arrived in the city Qiu Jin wandered the streets wondering what to do. She found herself lost in what appeared to be a bad neighborhood. Ducking into an alley Qiu Jin sunk to the ground and began to cry.

A tall woman with light red hair stepped out from a doorway in the alley. She was nicely dressed and looked like she didn’t belong in this place. As she left she spoke to the gentlemen inside. Qiu Jin heard her thank him for the sponges and to send word when more condoms arrived. None of this made sense to Qiu Jin and she was startled when the woman approached her.

The woman asked Qiu Jin what she was doing in the alley and warned her it was dangerous. Qiu Jin told the woman she had nowhere else to go. This made the woman stop walking. The woman looked over Qiu Jin and introduced herself as Alexandria. She asked Qiu Jin how old she was and what she liked to do. Qiu Jin told Alexandria that she was 17 and liked to heal the sick. Then, more boldly, said she liked to have sex with Albert. This made the woman laugh. Alexandria told Qiu Jin that some of her clients had asked for foreign girls and could not bring themselves to visit the sleazy brothels that most of the Chinese girls worked in. Qiu Jin didn’t understand any of this but she continued to listen intently. Alexandria asked Qiu Jin if she wanted to try having sex with other men and told her that she could make lots of money. This sounded like quite an amazing trade to Qiu Jin and she took the train with Alexandria to Cripple Creek.

Qiu Jin started out very slowly at the Knight House. Alexandria told her she was worried to advertise a Chinese girl too suddenly. They were mostly considered low-class and degrading. Her popularity grew by word-of-mouth among the men who were curious to be with someone “exotic.” Alexandria also told Qiu Jin it might be best if she went by another name since many of the clients found it hard to pronounce. Qiu Jin suggested China Doll and it stuck. Soon China Doll was one of the top money makers at the Knight House.

After the fall of the Knight house at the hands of Father Blenk, Alexandria apologized to her remaining prostitutes and moved out of town. Qiu Jin could not believe she had lost another person that she had looked up to. She was now 21 and trying to find work on her own. Without having the support of a madam, getting clients was difficult. Qiu Jin did not want to live a life of slavery and disease like the other Chinese prostitutes she saw in Cripple Creek. Qiu Jin decided she must find where Alexandria had gone and work for her once more.