A fascinating and haunting exploration of the bound foot in Chinese culture. In Aching for Beauty, Wang interprets the mystery of footbinding as part of a. The earliest mention of foot binding in Chinese history may date to the 21st century B.C., when the founder of the Xia dynasty was said to have married a fox fairy. ACHING FOR BEAUTY: Footbinding in China by Wang Ping. Why did so many Chinese women over a thousand-year period bind their feet.

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Even though footbinding was not practiced by every woman in late Imperial China, the aesthetic, financial, and erotic advantages of footbinding permeated all aspects of language. In Aching for Beauty, Wang interprets the mystery of footbinding as part of a womanly heritage-“a roaring ocean current of female language and culture.

Aching for Beauty demonstrates the complexity and the manifestations of a civilization’s obsession with the body-its beauty, its fulfillment, its destruction, and its transformation. Wang Ping writes with passion and an understanding strengthened by the female experience. This is a rich, necessary, and invaluable book. LiteratureCultural CriticismHistory. Why did so many Chinese women over a thousand-year period bind their feet, enduring rotting flesh, throbbing pain, and hampered mobility throughout their lives?

Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China

What compelled mothers to bind the feet of their young daughters, forcing the girls to walk about on their doubled-over limbs to achieve the breakage of bones requisite for three-inch feet? As a child growing up during the Cultural Revolution, Wang Ping fantasized about binding her own feet and tried to restrict their growth by wrapping them in elastic bandages. Written in an elegant and powerful style, and filled with footbindding, intriguing, and sometimes paradoxical insights, Aching for Beauty builds bridges from the past to the present, East to West, history to literature, imagination to reality.

Wang Ping, born in Shanghai, came to the United States in She achlng edited and cotranslated New Generation: Poems from China Today She has a Ph.


Aching for Beauty is one of the most stimulating and exciting books I have read in a long, long time-a work of cultural criticism and comparative study at its best.

The idea regarding the translation neauty bound feet nature into footbindign culture -as well as its direct connection with violence, fear, sex, and language–provides not only a persuasive argument about the cultural meaning of footbinding but also offers us an entirely new set of insights in the universal notion of sexuality.

Aching for Beauty

Wang Ping has succeeded triumphantly in this provocative and engaging book. Aching for Beauty masks a festering feast of sex and death-the coming apart, and together, of a civilization-in impeccable, tightly wound, attractive trappings.

Wang Ping, our cool, often sly, and scholarly narrator, presents herself as a woman of cultivation and taste through this house of Chinese wonders and horrors, while the physical book itself is prettily packaged in a bandage of a slipcover jn sepia-printed hard covers that open boldly, violently into red leaves-red of course being a lucky color.

Both beauty and talent count here.

Starting with an unexpected stance on the universally reviled practice of foot binding-the book reclaims it as a vital component of Chinese women’s cultural heritage- Aching unravels, in a good way, into the long continuum of Chinese culture itself. In the best tradition of cultural studies, Wang here takes on a giant storehouse of subject matter and glides through dhina labyrinthine corridors in fluid, often intuitive, moves, commenting eloquently in hit-or-miss fashion beayty the way.

At its best, it’s a genreless prose work, wandering freely through a forest of mostly inaccessible to a general English-language reader texts and subject matter.

Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China – Ping Wang – Google Books

Wang herself is one of our most mutable authors-poet, novelist, short story writer, editor, translator, academic-and, while being an impressive researcher, she’s artist enough here to guide us smoothly through this tangle of fascinating, esoteric, and not infrequently gleefully appalling material. Examining the imagery and fetishes associated with footbinding, Wang views it not just as something that victimized women and enforced patriarchy but as a vehicle for blurring gender boundaries.

Wang offers readers a deeper understanding of a complex and horrific cultural practice. Stunned to discover that traditionally bound feet were hook-shaped appendages only three inches long, she embarked on an all-consuming journey deep into the history of footbinding, a quest that ultimately led to a fresh and daring exploration of gender roles and the interface between the individual body and the body politic.


Because the author is also a poet and a novelist, her literary gifts are everywhere evident, particularly in her deft analysis of the language and literature of the golden lotuses. Wang Ping has done more than perform great feats of scholarship and interpretation.

By beginning with a disturbing strip tease that exposes the vulnerability and, to our eyes, grotesqueness, of lotus feet, and then carefully, even reverently, binding them up again with layer after layer of meticulously crafted and keenly sensitive extrapolations of their profound social, aesthetic, moral, and spiritual significance, she carries her readers beyond the pornographic into the cathartic.

Wang Ping awakens empathy and wonder, and helps us see that we are all kindred in spite of our extraordinary and precious differences. This book describes the chilling and tragic history of beauty via footbinding in China that began around the 11th century, flourished in the Ming Dynasty, and was eclipsed in the Qing Dynasty in Aching for Beauty is an exhilarating and exhaustive study of the Chinese custom of footbinding, as well as all the literature surrounding it, much of it previously unavailable to Western readers.

Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China by Wang Ping

Wang Ping looks to language and literature in examining the deep cultural and power structures involved in this agonizing tradition. Footbinding in Chinese Erotica.

University of Minnesota Press Coming soon. Home Current Catalogs Blog. Search Site only in current section. Aching for Beauty Footbinding in China A fascinating and haunting exploration of the bound foot in Chinese culture. Tags LiteratureCultural CriticismHistory.

Awards Winner of the Eugene M. Kayden Press Book Award