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Bound Feet & Western Dress

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,475 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
"In China, a woman is nothing". Thus begins the saga of a Chang Yuyi, a woman born into a well-to-do, highly respected Chinese family. Growing up in the perilous years between the fall of the last emperor and the Communist Revolution, Chang Yuyi's life is marked by a series of rebellions that will make her one of the most famous women in Chinese history: her refusal as a c ...more
Hardcover, 215 pages
Published August 1st 1996 by Bantam Dell Pub Group (Trd) (first published 1996)
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RK Byers
Aug 09, 2014 RK Byers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting "Memoirs of a Joy Luck Good Earth". I was pleasantly disappointed.
Aug 04, 2011 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audio version of this book. Was great to hear the author's voice even though the production quality wasn't all that great.

I have been a fan of Xu Zhimo ever since I read his most famous poem "Saying Good-bye to Cambridge Again." It's a beautiful poem and even more beautiful in Chinese. My favorite stanza:
"Very quietly I take my leave,
As quietly as I came here;
Gently I flick my sleeves,
Not even a wisp of cloud will I bring away."

His poetry is so enchanting, beautiful, fluid.

Feb 14, 2014 Lysmerry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chinese, 2013
I really enjoy Chinese memoirs, but this one disappointed. There were some strong parts- for example, where Yu-i is forced to make it on her own in a foreign country with no knowledge of the language. But for the most part Yu-i conforms to the Confucian norms she grew up with, making for a dull tale of duty. She is not a rebellious character, and strives to the ideal wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law. It's an interesting insight into the mindset of the time, but if you're familiar with Confuc ...more
Very enjoyable biography of the author's aunt, with just enough personal story from the author to make this a personal family story rather than a remote biography. This is a small story - the life story of the author's aunt. She's not a hero exactly, though she has moments of extreme grace and strength. She's not a revolutionary, though she was thrust into a more modern life than the one she'd envisioned when she found herself part of one of the first public no fault divorces in China. She lived ...more
Feb 15, 2016 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just excellent.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 15, 2014 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beautifully told story of a remarkable life. Chang Yu-i was born in 1900 to a wealthy Shanghai family, one of 12 children, the second of four daughters. She was the first girl in her family to refuse to have her feet bound, the first to get a divorce, a successful business woman, a bank vice-president, a dutiful daughter and daughter-in-law. Her story is told by her great-niece, a first generation Chinese American who learned of Yu-i's story in her Chinese studies courses at Harvard.

Yu-i was
Feisty Harriet
Mar 26, 2015 Feisty Harriet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
I love the idea behind this autobiographical/memoir which mostly focuses on Yu-i, a woman born in China at the beginning of the 20th century who grows up and comes of age as her country moves away from its more traditional ways such as foot binding, arranged marriages, socially accepted concubines, filial responsibilities, and a abhorrent preference for sons. Yu-i's story is told by her 20-something great-niece, Pang-Mei, who was born in Connecticut and is trying to understand her American and C ...more
Oct 28, 2011 Gracie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was possibly the best book that I've ever read. OMG. Okay, maybe not The best on my list, but possibly a tie for second. It was amazing: a lot of detail, great content, and much much more.

I read this in a day, and let me tell you, it amazed me. In all the books on this genre that I'd read, this was a thriller.

A switch between traditional and ancient times, two women, both marked down with 'no value' stand up for their beliefs and show their uniqueness. Strong, they stand up for their righ
Nov 07, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chez-mama
Excellent book. The picture on the cover is worth the price of the book. It is the first photograph that I have ever seen of the size of bound feet. I suppose I could have googled the image but the comparison of the "normal" shoe and that of a woman whose feet had been bound was powerful.

There are a few things that would make me uncomfortable with a young teen reading this book. However, I intend to go back and list the pages of concern so that you can decide for yourself.

I found this book at t
Jul 23, 2008 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Chang Yu-I was three her mother tried to bind her feet. But the child's cries so tormented her brother that he convinced their mother to stop. This break with convention foreshadowed the extraordinary life Yu-i was to lead. After following her husband, poet Hsu Chi-Mo, a noted philanderer, to Oxford, she made history by becoming the first Chinese woman to have a western-style divorce at age 22. Determined to make her own way, she moved to America and served in a series of prestigious positi ...more
Dec 29, 2013 Irene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I am very partial to oral history, so this book was a good fit for me. The author was born and raised in Connecticut by immigrants from China. Although she had always known that her paternal family was prominent in China prior to the revolution, she was surprised to see her paternal great aunt’s name in a college text book. That unexpected revelation inspired her to interview her great aunt and record her story. I was fascinated with the everyday details of life in China in the early 1900s. I wa
Jun 09, 2010 Bridget rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Chinese family traditions, women's roles, etc.
Although this is not the most creatively told story, it is fascinating to learn about the family dynamics of the old-fashioned Chinese family, particularly the woman's role. A couple things I learned: bound feet were considered beautiful, which meant a girl's toes were bent down (and eventually broken) to touch the heel of the foot, then wrapped with cloth. This made walking, even short distances, very painful, which is why most women just stayed home most days. A quick read and very interesting ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This beautiful double memoir gives insight into the conflict between tradition and independence in the lives of two very different generations of women of one family - a great-aunt's story in early 20th century China and her great-niece's story in the late 20th century America. It was a quick read that offered a particularly interesting historical context for women in China at the end of the last dynasty and into the Republican Period.
Jun 16, 2010 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book I picked up because of a previously enjoyed book about China. This is China on the cusp of change, the 1920-s to 1930's as told by a grandmother and recorded by her grand-daughter. One can see the old influences of culture and the pride in one's ancestors. Also, the costs of honor and family responsibility. Admired the Chang family!
Apr 02, 2015 Colette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When the other kids called me “Chink” or squashed their faces flat against their hands in imitation of my slanty eyes and broad nose, I stumbled inside and fell into the crack. From there I stood outside China and looked on it with ridicule and ignorance. It hurt me to see China from my classmate's vantage pint; it meant falling into the crack away from my Xu Ma."
Dec 21, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good book overall, but the sections about the author were not interesting at all. The stories told by her great aunt were captivating and heartbreaking too. To grow up in a time and country that clearly did not value their women, but then to be so successful in life is inspiring. It's worth a read.
Feb 01, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an honor to discover someone from a different generation so full of history and this book now capturing it into words. Thanks Natasha.

So much has happened to us Americans and your Chinese family and to see how these two cultures are mixing and blending is truly fascinating.

I hope you keep on writing.
Apr 16, 2013 Starla rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-rental
I loved this book. It gives you an understanding of the old ways, and the duties of the wife. No matter what had to be done, Yu-i did it without any complaint, even when she felt neglected from her husband. Her story was inspiring for me because with everything she endured, she stayed strong.
Jul 04, 2016 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always like to learn something new when I read. This book filled the bill, the author wrote a very poignant book about her great aunt. People that choose books from Amy Tan, or Snowflower and the Secret fan would enjoy.
Nov 24, 2011 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One down side to reading via my kindle app on my phone is that I can't get a feel for the book before I read it. Hence, I didn't realized until half way through the book that this was a true story which made the book even better in my rating of 5 stars instead of 4.
Feb 05, 2008 J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book I had to read for a class a few years back. Not a book I would have picked on my own, but it was a very good book. All about Chinese culture and women...the dichotomy of bound feet and western dress. Very good story, and one that makes you appreciate our rights as women.
Jul 31, 2010 Rebekkila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
A friend of mine who is Chinese gave this to me. The story is of a woman who had the first western divorce in China and her struggle with Traditional Chinese vs. westernized chinese. I would recommend this book.
Feb 03, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm jealous of the author for having such an awesome aunt and being able to communicate with her. Her aunt's life is so adventurous and fulfilling, despite all odds, it makes me feel happy for her that she was able to write a book about it. Her aunt is certainly worth celebrating.
Stephanie Sydnor
Jun 25, 2009 Stephanie Sydnor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author did a great job speaking in her grandmother's voice, and I learned several interesting facts about Chinese culture. Could have done without the back and forth between the past and present - made it confusing at times.
Nov 02, 2008 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was so hard to read how cruelly this girl was treated when she was a child. But the way she overcame all of her obstacles was very inspiring. I loved how rebellious she was.
Dec 22, 2010 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It provided an interesting and well explained view of Chinese culture. I found the author's pieces on herself to be much less interesting than the main storyline.
Aug 05, 2011 Ellie79 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about what is was like to for a Chinese woman at the turn of the century.
Jul 26, 2012 Hugs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have cried while reading this many times. There are good things to take away, like never, NEVER saying a negative word about your in-laws to ANYBODY. I can see where some hardships could be avoided by living this way. Some of the difficult things included not being able to nurse and raise your own infant/child. In contrast, I LOVED that she nursed until she was SIX, and credits that for her strength and not getting sick! Some of the rules of filiel piety would do the world good today ("Your bo ...more
Luanne Castle
Nov 14, 2014 Luanne Castle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
While the book cover calls this a dual memoir–that of the author and her Great Aunt Yu-i–to me this is more the memoir of Yu-i as verbally told and recreated on the page by her younger relative. It is mainly Yu-i’s story. And what a story it is.

She was born at the very beginning of the 20th century in China. Times were changing rapidly. During the course of Yu-i’s life, she must learn how to become a more “Western” woman and still show respect for her elders and her heritage by adhering to the t
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