Thursday Thirteen Vol. 2

Thirteen things you'll learn if you read WILD SWANS THREE DAUGHTERS OF CHINA, a biography/autobiography written by Jung Chang as Serendipity saw it.

1. This book is about China, and particularly about the author's grandmother, mother and herself during early 1900s to late 1970s. A lot of fascinating things in this book. A few of which I will post here.
It was considered one of the duties of a wife to help bring up her husband.
2. During early 1900s, sons are valued.
My great-grandfather was the only son, which made him of supreme importance to his family.

The story of his wife, my great-grandmother, was typical of millions of Chinese women of her time. She came form a family of tanners called Wu. Because her family was not an intellectual one and did not hold any official post, and because she was a girl, she was not given a name at all. Being the second daughter, she was simply called "Number Two Girl".
3. I am so glad I don't have to do this.
But her greatest assets were her bound feet, called in Chinese "three-inch golden lilies" This meant she walked "like a tender young willow shoot in a spring breeze..."

My grandmother's feet had been bound when she was two years old. Her mother, who herself had bound feet, first wound a piece of white cloth about twenty feet long round her feet, bending all the toes except the big toe inward and under the sole. The she placed a large stone on top to crush the arch.

The process lasted several years.
4. More about bound feet.
In those days, when a woman was married, the first thing the bridegrooms family did was to examine her feet. Large feet, meaning normal feet, were considered to bring shame on the husband's household.
5. Background on binding off feet.
The practice of binding feet was originally introduced about a thousand years ago, allegedly by a concubine of the emperor. Not only was the sight of women hobbling on tiny feet considered erotic, men would also get excited playing with bound feet, which were always hidden in embroidered silk shoes.
6. Once bound, they can't allow the feet to grow again. This is the part of the part of the book where I was positively cringing.
Men rarely saw naked bound feet, which were usually covered in rotting flesh and stank when the bindings were removed.
The author then tells us of her grandma always in pain, and how she would sigh with relief when she can unbound her feet, and how she'd set about cutting off dead flesh from her feet. The pain also came from toe-nails growing into her feet.

7. Interesting beliefs about hell.
..clay figure whose tongue was being pulled out at least a good while simultaneously being cut up by two devils with spiky hair standing on end like hedgehogs and eyes bulging like frogs. The man being tortured had been a liar in his previous life...
...a woman being sawed in half by two men. The woman was a widow who had remarried...
8. During the reign of Japanese terror, eating rice could get your arrested for being an "economic criminal"

9. Mao , leader of nationwide peasant uprising who swept away a rotten dynasty and become a wise new emperor...
It was under Mao that China became a power to be reckoned with in the world, and many Chinese stopped feeling ashamed and humiliated at being Chinese.
10. Chinese years so much for peace, they say
It's better to be a dog in peacetime than a human being in war.
11. There was American terror
We were told that the Americans were waiting for a chance to invade and reinstate Kuomintang, and that in order to defeat an invasion by them Lei Feng had trained day and night to overcome his weak physique and become champion hand-grenade thrower.

12. Then the beauty goes out too... Mao had instructed that grass, flowers, and pets were bourgeois habits and were to be eliminated.

13. There's so much more in this book.

Books were major targets of Mao's order to destroy. Because they had not been written within the last few months, and therefore did not qoute Mao on every page, some Red Guards declared that they were all "poisonous weeds."

Like I said, this is an awesome book. While there might be a lot of uncomfortable truths in this book, it's a fantastic read. It's worth my time, and I'm more enriched for having read it.

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Chelle Y. said...

I think I need to go buy and read that book.

Serendipity said...

Hi Chelle, it's worth buying. I borrowed mine from the library, and after I was done, I bought my own copy just to have around and share. :)

amy said...

SOunds like a great book!

Katia said...

Wow. Sounds like a good book. Will have to put it on my to-read list! Wonder if my tiny library has a copy...

My TT is up, too!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good book. The foot binding sounds so incredibly painful. (I have super wide feet, so I can't imagine trying to bind them into tiny little things).

Thanks for sharing and happy TT. :)

Nikki said...

my feet is so large and boney that if my feet were bound, they would've just ripped the cloth off and my feet would grow out as large as it is right now yeah, ouch that would really hurt. i know this feet binding...and i don't understand why they'd do that. some ppl just have weird superstitions and practices...some of them have no logic at all. anyway, great list! mine's up, drop by if u can =)

Harlot said...

Wow Shosh, this sounds like my type of book. That's a great synopsis/review of sort. :)

You know i'm part Chinese. I think of all people in the world, Chinese are the most traditional. Btw that binding of feet is just horrible and cruel really (but if you ask these women who did it, they'll say it's a thing of beauty :/). That's why you see those old Chinese women so slow to walk. It's because of their small feet which are actually rotting inside their shoes. :S

I am so thankful my dad was left here where my grandfather took two of his sons (when they were little) back to China. I probably wouldn't even be here if that actually happen. Though, one of my uncles who grew up in China now lives in Hong Kong, one of the best shopping countries. LOL :P

Harlot said...

Oh yeah, i have HUGE feet.

Harlot said...

*WHEN* my grandfather. Not where. Geesh, i need to read my comment before posting. :/

Serendipity said...

Harlot, who reads their comments before posting? LOL. I do lots of that.

Oh, so glad you're here and not in China un-blogging, really!

Serendipity said...

Although my best friend is Chinese, she's a doc now, and I'm a Mommy. LOL.

Serendipity said...

What I meant was I do a lot of NOT reading when I post comments.

Brony said...

sounds like an interesting book.

Geekwif said...

Sounds like a very interesting read. I read a book once about an American who went to China many years ago. When he saw a woman binding her daughter's feet he desperately wanted to step in and stop her. The girl was obviously in pain.

His guide told him he could not interfere, because it would bring shame to them, which over the course of her life would be worse for that little girl than the binding itself. I can't imagine having to just walk away from such a thing without helping.

Simple American said...

My missus grandmother had boundd feet. Such a cruel thing. Is it really so beautiful? Or just convenient to have a hobbled woman?

Serendipity said...

More like hubbled woman thing...that or a very angry woman in pain making sure all others after her suffer the same way.

It is said that it was concocted by some concubine or some important person from China.