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Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  145 ratings  ·  19 reviews
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 inqu ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 12th 2002 by Anchor (first published 2000)
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Apr 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
The description on the back of "Aching for Beauty" reads: "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."

Unfortunately the cover description is about the most interesting part about this book. I was barely able to get through a couple of chapters before I gave
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One can tell the author writes novels, which genre she transmits directly into her academic writing. The whole book is plagued--if I may use this rather strong expression--by overinterpretation, an unfortunate result of the author's overflowing subjectivity. I understand that literary scholars often have the impulse to dig up (and exaggerate) the subversiveness of writings by the oppressed, but it's just not the case that those figures, women from some centuries ago, for example, were so pent up ...more
Someone else said this reads like a dissertation and is thus too boring but, being an academic, I don't think that's the author's problem: instead, I think it's good old fashioned lack of editing. This book is packed with excellent information, well documented stuff on a phenomenon that is difficult to find info about beyond the stylized/theatrical versions of it. This is a combination of women's accounts of their experiences with footbinding, presented in combination with dramaturgical represen ...more
Mary Havens
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great, graphic and well-researched.
Jason Poulter
May 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 06, 2010 rated it liked it
After reading Lisa See's novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I became fascinated with the chinese practice of foot binding. Aching for Beauty was a difficult book to read.. partly because it read like a doctoral dissertation and partly because the ideas presented were very disturbing to me. I tried very hard to maintain an open mind about the practice of foot binding. I really wanted to understand the cultural and social reasons for it. Ping used literary sources such as novels, poems and pla ...more
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
The factual information is interesting, when you can find it. I also liked the passages by other women describing their experiences.

However, I hated the parts when the author tried to interpret the bound foot - such as when she says it looks like both male and female genitalia - really? Also, the part when she talked about half-animal-half female forms in other mythologies such as the Sphinx or the mermaid and compared them with "hooved women" of China, was plain irritating. She seems to not re
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 entitled "Edible Beauty" - it basically outlined the hedonistic lifestyle of the emperor and the upper class in Hangzhou. If you read only that section out of the whole book, you would not have known Achi ...more
Jan 22, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was rather high-level philosophy, some parts becoming too much of a disertation comparing it's content to other chinese writers. But it had a lot of historical information and insights into the custom of footbinding. It spared no reality and some mental pictures will stay with me, wanted or not. ...more
Catherine Siemann
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
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's origin as her dissertation, but overall her insights are well worth the time spent reading. ...more
Mei Hua
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 23, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Apr 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
I couldn't quite bring myself to finish this book because it felt too much like a thesis, which in actuality, I believe it was. However, the topic was amazing and incredibly tense. It's piqued my interesting into learning more about footbinding, even though it's painful to read. ...more
Lori Stoltz
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of Chinese culture
Shelves: nonfiction
This turned out to be a doctoral dissertation. I got through about half of it. She raises some interesting points, but this was too ponderous to be a good introduction to the topic.
Jan 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I didn't know much about the practice of foot-binding; this is a well-researched history of foot-binding. I learned a lot, appreciated the pictures. ...more
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look into a unique, yet painful tradition. Recommended for anyone interested in Chinese history and culture.
Robin Dilks
Jun 25, 2015 rated it liked it
This I read for research for my latest book I am working on. I found the information insightful and very helpful.
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Jun 21, 2008
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Sep 30, 2016
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Born in Shanghai and grew up in the East China Sea. Love the body of water, its sound and smell, love the touch of the muddy beach and golden sand.

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