When Wang Ping was nine years old, she secretly set about binding her feet with elastic bands. Footbinding had by then been outlawed in China, women’s feet “liberated,” but at that young age she desperately wanted the tiny feet her grandmother had–deformed and malodorous as they were. By first examining the root of her own girlhood desire, Wang unleashes a fascinating inquiry into a centuries-old custom. Aching for Beauty combines Wang’s unique perspective and remarkable literary gifts in an award-winning exploration of the history and culture surrounding footbinding. In setting out to demystify this reviled tradition, Wang probes an astonishing range of literary references, addresses the relationship between beauty and pain, and discusses the intense female bonds that footbinding fostered. Her comprehensive examination of the notions of hierarchy, femininity, and fetish bound up in the tradition places footbinding in its proper context in Chinese history and opens a window onto an intriguing culture.
About Wang Ping
Wang Ping’s books include American Visa, a collection of short stories; Foreign Devil, a novel; and Of Flesh and Spirit, a collection of poetry. Born in Shanghai, she holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from New York University and teaches creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“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)