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Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China by Wang Ping

By Wang Ping

Whilst Wang Ping used to be 9 years previous, she secretly set approximately binding her toes with elastic bands. Footbinding had by way of then been outlawed in China, women’s toes “liberated,” yet at that younger age she desperately sought after the tiny ft her grandmother had–deformed and malodorous as they have been. via first reading the basis of her personal girlhood wish, Wang unleashes a desirable inquiry right into a centuries-old custom.
Aching for Beauty combines Wang’s precise standpoint and memorable literary presents in an award-winning exploration of the historical past and tradition surrounding footbinding. In getting down to demystify this reviled culture, Wang probes an fantastic diversity of literary references, addresses the connection among good looks and soreness, and discusses the serious girl bonds that footbinding fostered. Her accomplished exam of the notions of hierarchy, femininity, and fetish sure up within the culture locations footbinding in its right context in chinese language historical past and opens a window onto an interesting tradition.

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Additional info for Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China

Example text

If after education they still cannot practice the right way and regain their old habit, once I find out this or receive letters of appeal, I will definitely punish them severely, together with the Commander-in-chief and Secretary of their Banner. I will never relent! (Quoted in Wu Hong 1997, 354) Footbinding apparently went beyond the issue of fashion or costumes, beyond the realm of aesthetics, and was treated as seriously as state affairs. But the Chinese continued binding with greater zeal, and the ban only fanned more desire among the Manchus for tiny feet.

The ban was also meant to prevent the Manchus from being assimilated by the Han culture. The Qing rulers regarded the Manchu native costumes and fashions as a crucial symbol to identify their origin and j(5" / Brief History of Footbinding superiority, and many of them issued edicts to remind the Manchus of their importance. As Wu Hong points out, "If Qing rulers were willing to borrow anything from Chinese culture (and they indeed borrowed quite a lot), three things—surname, hairstyle, and clothes—must be exceptions" (J997.

It caused a serious uproar when members of rival families often falsely accused one another of footbinding (mostly for revenge). By 1668, the emperor had to withdraw the regulation. Chinese men regarded this as a victory won by the women since men were forced to cut their hair in the Manchu style—a symbolic surrender to the Manchu rule (Gao Hongxin 1995, 24). After that time, the lotus foot went beyond eroticism and became the object of fanatic worship as well as the standard for beauty and social status.

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