Wild Swans Book Review
The book, Wild Swans, is a biography of the author Jung Chang’s family history. The setting of the book is during the period of Mao Zedong’s Communist takeover in China that occurred in the 1900’s. The book is called the “Three Daughters of China” because it tells how things were in China during her mother’s, grandmother’s, and her own period of living there. The book discuses in detail all the pain and suffering theses three women endured during their life. Even though they grew up in different ages of China they all experienced the same hardships. Their struggles consisted of those with warlords, the Kuomintang, and the cultural revolutions. Of the most horrific periods of these three women’s lives the most horrific was that Jung’s father was wrongfully persecuted by the communist society that he had loved and had so much faith in. He found that everything he had believed in had been in vain. Jung’s grandmother, Yu-fang life begins this book. Yu-fang’s life basically begins when her feet were bound and she became part of a concubine of a warlord. This is not unusual for Yu-fang’s time because women were shown no dignity and suffered many pains. To make matters worse Yu-fang’s father has been the one to arrange this type of lifestyle for his daughter even at a young age Yu-fang’s feet had been bound, which began at age two. The bounding of the feet was a Chinese tradition. “Bound feet” becomes Yu-fang’s greatest asset. “The sight of women teetering on bound feet was supposed to have an erotic effect on men, partly because her vulnerability induced feelings of protectiveness to the onlooker”(Chang, 24). Women walking on bound feet in the Chinese culture were called “three-inch golden lilies” which meant that a woman walked “like a tender young willow shoot in a spring breeze”(Chang, 24). The bounding of the feet had been a painful ordeal for Yu-fang to endure. At age two when the bounding of her feet just began, her mother is the one who performs the act because she herself had bound feet. The process begins with the winding of a piece of white cloth about twenty feet long around the feet and then bending all of the toes except the big toe inward and under the sole (Chang, 24). Next a large stone is placed on the top to crush the arch (Chang, 24). The ordeal is so painful for Yu-fang that she faints several times. The processes of binding Yu-fang’s feet lasts for several years and even after her bones have been broken. The years are ones of agony for Yu-fang and even when she pleaded to her mother nothing changed. Her mother always advises her that she does this for her happiness so that she could marry a great man. In China, during Yu-fang’s period, when a man is going to marry, his family had to examine the fiancé’s feet. Normal feet that were seen as large feet were considered to bring shame on a husband’s household (Chang, 24). Even when Yu-fang marries her hardships did not end here. She becomes a member of a concubine. Her husband is General Xue. He has many wives and is always away. During her marriage to General Xue, she spends much time lonely and frustrated. Yu-fang bears a child to the General Xue, which is Jung Chang’s mother, Bao Qin. Bao Qin’s life as a young child is very painful also. Bao Qin lives in the palace of her father’s along with her mother and his other wives. One day when her father has fallen very ill and is on his deathbed the wife that ranks number one has summoned Bao Qin and her mother to a meeting (Chang, 38). In this meeting, it is explained that Yu-fang is to no longer be called mother by Bao Qin but instead that Bao Qin will call the wife that ranks first “mother” (Chang, 38). When this happened Yu-fang decides to take Bao Qin away from this lifestyle. Her mother takes Bao Qin to Yixian where she leaves her with a friend. Yu-fang writes back that Bao Qin has died (Chang 39). Soon after the General Xue dies and Yu-fang is granted...
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