Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China

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.

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Jason (Laie, HI) · ★☆☆☆☆ · August 20, 2010
Book Review: Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China, by Wang Ping
In her provocative book, Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China, author Wang Ping attempts to tackle the deeper meanings behind footbinding in China. She begins with a preface in which she describes her personal experience with... ...more
By Katie (The United States) · ★★★☆☆ · January 31, 2014
This would have been a good deal drier if the author hadn't added in many references to older literature and anecdotes by a variety of women, which I heartily enjoyed. However toward the middle I felt as if the author was meandering when it came to the main thesis, as it were. There's a chapter e... ...more
By Catherine (New York, NY) · ★★★☆☆ · June 28, 2010
Ping's study is smart and interesting. After a few introductory chapters dealing with the culture of footbinding, she focuses primarily on its representations in classical Chinese literature. Some of the connections she makes, for example, the bound foot to the Lacanian phallus, speak to the work... ...more
By Mei (Jakarta, 04, Indonesia) · ★★★★★ · January 30, 2013
A book that was left by my mother in my book shelves. This is really a heart-touching story of footbinding ever happened in China, where beauty in women was measured by the size of their feet. It is a real good book, and I recommend women with Chinese ancestors to read it. ...more
By Alicia · ★☆☆☆☆ · December 26, 2010
I only got through the first chapter before bringing it back to the library. Even still, I think the author summed up the book in that first chapter. I found "Snow Flower and The Secret Fan" more interesting. ...more
By Brittany (The United States) · ★☆☆☆☆ · July 10, 2008
I ended up skimming and skipping large sections of this book because of undesirable content, but there were some chunks of history in it that I found helpful to know if I want to write about China. ...more
By Nicole (Aliso Viejo, CA) · ★★★★★ · June 04, 2008
After becoming obsessed with Geisha, I figured I would learn more about other Asian cultures and their traditions, such as the Chinese tradition of foot-binding. Very interesting. ...more
By Lori (Rochester, MN) · ★★★★★ · June 01, 2008
If you want to be haunted with words for a long time, this is the book that will stay with you concerning the lengths humans go for acceptance. Ping's words are powerful. ...more