Bound Feet And Western Dress Essay

Bound Feet And Western Dress

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Traditions in Chinese culture are long-rooted and are taken very seriously from generation to generation. However, there must always be room for modern change in order for society to grow and strive across the globe. In Bound Feet and Western Dress the conflict between Chinese traditions and modern change arises. With this conflict it is important to discuss the different meanings of liberation for men and women and they way in which Chang Yu-I was able to obtain liberation throughout her life. Liberation in China means two different things for a man and a woman because of the gender differences that are prevalent. In traditional China women are treated unequally and are simply seen as a piece of property to their husband. They must abide by his demands and remain a slave to his family and traditions. As Yu-I told her niece, "You must remember this. In China, a woman is nothing." For a Chinese man, liberation means becoming stronger, more powerful, and of higher prestige. While with a Chinese woman, liberation means being equal to that of a man and being able to live a life on her own terms rather than that of her husband's.
Liberation for a woman is more about being independent and being treated like she is of importance in this society. Traditionally, women are seen to be child-bearers and that is their main role in any marriage. For example, the woman is really only seen to be useful in that she can bare children for her husband, and even at that, the husband wishes that the child be male so that the family name and traditions may be carried on. If the child born is a female than she is seen to be of no use to their family because she will eventually become the property of her husband, his family, and traditions. A woman's liberation is far different from a man's because of the old Chinese traditions that have been established for generations.
Chang Yu-I understood woman's liberation as the tool for changing the Chinese culture. It was about a woman becoming her own person rather than the property of a man whom she must cherish under every circumstance. Yu-I believed that a woman's liberation was in finding her own independence and strength in Chinese society.

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Not only is it about a woman being her own person, it is also about her having equality to men. Yu-I's views on liberation come from the knowledge she has gained about traditional China and the stories involved in it. Instead of becoming a basis to live her life, they became a tool she used to question and learn. Yu-I grew up with parents that had a mind-set that began her journey to achieve liberation.
Throughout her experiences Chang Yu-I was able to achieve liberation from the traditional Chinese customs that enslaved woman. The reason that she was able to achieve this liberation is through the people that surrounded her. The first step to her liberation from the Chinese tradition began when her mother and amah (caretaker) first started to bind her feet at the extremely young age of three. On the fourth morning her brother stopped them because of the pain he could see Yu-I going through; this was the beginning of implementing modern change into Yu-I's life.
While modern change in China began to shadow long-lived traditions, Chang Yu-I's experience was exceptional in nature. While many parts of her early life were based on Chinese traditions, the role of modern change in her life allowed her to become liberated. Chang Yu-I's experience to modern change had a lot to do with her parents and their revolutionary movement to stop her foot-binding. Their choice to break this tradition was the beginning of her experiences to modern change and surely helped her to become the person she was later in her life. While her parents stopped the foot-binding, they still followed the tradition to which she had an arranged marriage. While she suffered through years of abuse from her husband, another exceptional experience that she had over others was the fact that she experienced the first western-style divorce in China. This was something that was not done in traditional Chinese culture and contributed to Yu-I's liberation.
Not only was she able to gain freedom from her husband that had abused and enslaved her for many years, she was able to gain strength as a woman in society. As discussed earlier Chang Yu-I had an exceptional experience in integrating modern change into her life as compared with other people living in China. Another example of this is the power that she had gained by becoming a vice-president of the Shanghai Women's Savings Bank. This was a great part of her liberation as a woman and a leader in Chinese society.
The Chinese culture is very tradition-based and these are usually held up from generation to generation. However, modern changes began to be implemented within their society and changed the look of present China. It allowed woman to gain strength and equality in society and undoubtedly affected Chang Yu-I's life. Through her life experiences she was able to gain liberation and independence and became a role model for women trying to achieve the same. While not all Chinese families had the same experiences in implementing modern change, the liberation was mutual.



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Bound Feet and Western Dress

Pang-Mei Natasha Chang, Author Doubleday Books $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-385-47963-9
In this exquisite memoir, Chang Yu-i, the daughter of a distinguished Chinese family, recreates her life for her American-born grandniece, Pang-Mei, a Harvard student who is conflicted about her identity. Born in 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, Yu-i was a victim of the tension between Western ideas and Chinese tradition. Her parents were sufficiently progressive not to insist on binding her feet but nevertheless believed that a woman was nothing except the obedient servant of her husband, in-laws and children. Dutifully, Yu-i accepted the marriage they arranged for her to Hsu Chi-mo, a poet so entranced by Western culture that, on their wedding night, he declared his intention to have the first Western-style divorce in China. Although this did not happen at once, after Yu-i had born him a son and submitted to several years of his cruelty, he deserted her while she was again pregnant. Refusing his demand that she abort the child, but ashamed to face disgrace at home, and rejecting thoughts of suicide, she joined her brother in Germany, where she educated herself, becoming a teacher and a successful businesswoman--eventually the first woman vice-president of the Shanghai Women's Bank. With details of a life that straddled pre-Communist and Communist China, this is an enthralling tale of a woman who achieved independence despite great odds. Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1996
Release date: 08/01/1996
Prebound-Other - 215 pages - 978-0-7857-0274-0
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-57453-093-3
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4464-8860-7

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