By Wang Ping
Asian Studies/Women's reports a desirable and haunting exploration of the sure foot in chinese language tradition. Why did such a lot of chinese language ladies over a thousand-year interval bind their ft, enduring rotting flesh, throbbing discomfort, and hampered mobility all through their lives? What forced moms to bind the toes in their younger daughters, forcing the women to stroll approximately on their doubled-over limbs to accomplish the breakage of bones needful for three-inch ft? Why did chinese language males locate women's "golden lotuses"-stench and all-so arousing, inspiring good looks contests for ft, hundreds of thousands of poems, and erotica within which certain, silk-slippered ft have been fetishized and lusted after? As a baby transforming into up in the course of the Cultural Revolution, Wang Ping fantasized approximately binding her personal toes and attempted to limit their development via wrapping them in elastic bandages. even supposing footbinding used to be now not practiced through each lady in overdue Imperial China, the classy, monetary, and erotic benefits of footbinding permeated all elements of language, starting from erotic poetry, novels, and performances to nutrition writing, myths, people songs and ditties, and mystery women's writing, a few of it hidden in embroidery. In Aching for good looks, Wang translates the secret of footbinding as a part of a womanly heritage-"a roaring ocean present of woman language and culture." She additionally indicates that footbinding shouldn't be considered basically as a functionality of men's oppression of girls, yet relatively as a phenomenon of female and male hope deeply rooted in conventional chinese language tradition. Written in a sublime and robust kind, and packed with own, fascinating, and infrequently paradoxical insights, Aching for good looks builds bridges from the earlier to the current, East to West, historical past to literature, mind's eye to fact. Wang Ping, born in Shanghai, got here to the us in 1985. Her books comprise brief tales, American Visa (1994); a singular, international satan (1996); and poetry, Of Flesh and Spirit (1998). She additionally edited and cotranslated New iteration: Poems from China at the present time (1999). She has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from big apple collage and teaches artistic writing at Macalester university in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Extra resources for Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China
Such a body must be tamed, purified, and mediated through human effort—through footbinding. Like the mummy that seals death beneath layers of cloth, the lotus foot, once formed, seals all the degrading qualities associated with the foot inside the bandages. It shields off human follies, their defenselessness against aging, decaying, and dying, and their threat to cosmic harmony. Mianzi (reputation or prestige) comes directly from the word mian (face, surface, outside, outer part). It plays a crucial role in every part of Chinese culture.
The following account, told by Jin Suxin, is one of the stories collected in Records of Gathering Fragrance: When I was a child, I lived in Mentou Village, eighty li away from Pingxi County. At that time, women competed to have the smallest feet. At age six, my mother bound my feet. . I was told not to walk on my heels; otherwise my heels would be deformed and villagers would laugh at me. But when I forced myself to walk on the bent toes, I felt the pain intolerable. Walking became a torture.
This can be taken as evidence that the practice had already started, although it was still rare. During the rule of Song Huizong (1119-1125), there was apparently a special lotus shoe in vogue in the capital Bian Jing called cuo dao di, and it was written about by poet Lu You (1125—1210) in his Lao xueyan biji (notes from an old schoolhouse). By the Southern Song, the move of the capital to Lin'an (Hangzhou) helped spread footbinding from the northern part of China to the south. In the paintings of the Southern Song, for example, Sou shan tu and Zaju renwu tu (in the Beijing Gugong Museum), women had small feet.
Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China by Wang Ping