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Aching for Beauty
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.