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In this award-winning inquiry into the centuries-old custom of footbinding, poet, novelist, and scholar Wang Ping offers a fresh perspective on a shocking practice.
By first examining the root of her own girlhood desire for tiny feet–years after footbinding had been outlawed in China–Wang unleashes a fascinating exploration of the history and culture surrounding this reviled tradition. She probes an astonishing range of literary references, addresses the relationship between beauty and pain, and discusses the intense female bonds that footbinding fostered in endeavoring to demystify this complex phenomenon. With a comprehensive examination of the notions of hierarchy, femininity, and fetish bound up in the tradition, Aching for Beauty places footbinding in its proper context in Chinese history and opens a window onto an intriguing culture.
“Wang Ping writes with passion and an understanding strengthened by the female experience. This is a rich, necessary, and invaluable book.”–Ha Jin, author of Waiting
“Impeccable…. [A] house of Chinese wonders…. Wang takes on a giant storehouse of subject matter and glides through its labyrinthine corridors in fluid, often intuitive moves…. Fascinating.”–San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Eloquently and thoroughly documents a custom that for 1,000 years symbolized not only attractiveness, but gentility, virtue and high status…. [Wang Ping] peels back the layers of fear, desire and social climbing…like so many lotus petals.”–Star Tribune (Minneapolis)