Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China is a narrative by author Wang Ping in which her own personal experience with footbinding is discussed, as well as the relationship between beauty and pain in more modern times and the reasons a multitude of young girls were drawn to the practice.
The central question in Ping’s novel is why footbinding was such a prominent and enduring practice in China. Wang Ping is a credible author because she was raised in the Republic of China where footbinding was outlawed and narrates why she still desired bound feet. Ping is also an English Professor at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.The thesis of Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China is why footbinding was such a prominent and enduring practice in China. Wang Ping structures her novel into three major categories. First, she explains how when she was a young girl, she desired bound feet like she saw on her grandmother. She then chose to wrap her own feet in elastic bands and desired the same outcome as real footbinding.
The novel progress to explain Wang Ping’s query about the connection between beauty and pain, specifically for Chinese women who desired bound feet, such as herself. Here she analyzes the fascination and fetish of bound feet in China that spanned for nearly one thousand years. Ping then breaks down the close bonds that foot binding caused between women as they endured this practice together. As she does so, she works to debunk the footbinding practice in China by attempting to gain an understanding of the cultural practices that encouraged it.I would recommend this book to anybody interested in learning about footbinding because not only does Wang Ping have personal experience with the matter, but she is a highly-esteemed author who does an excellent job of explaining many aspects of the subject, from the connection of beauty and pain to why the practice endured for so long in Chinese culture. Wang Ping’s view is different from many other scholars who write about footbinding because, as an Chinese-American author, she has little Western bias.
Most Western authors criticize footbinding for being an inhumane and barbaric practice but Ping attempts to look at footbinding as just another aspect of Chinese culture. The first piece of convincing evidence that Wang Ping uses to support her thesis is how even though foot binding was outlawed in China, she still had a strong desire to bind her own feet because it was so ingrained in her culture. Next, she carefully examines the hierarchical and patriarchal systems that are in place in China that supported the continuation of foot binding and explains how a bond was formed between the women who were actually practicing foot binding. Wang Ping uses both a political and ideological approach when discussing foot binding.
By analyzing the political aspect of footbinding, she discusses the hierarchical system that kept footbinding in practice through the government encouraging women to bind their feet. She then uses an ideological approach to explain how the patriarchal system taught adolescents the importance of obeying elders and honoring culture, which at the time meant to bind a young girls’ feet.