The Good Women of China – Xinran


“The Chinese say ‘the hands of men and the words of women are to be feared.”

“Yes, some of my friends say I have a ‘mouth of knives and a heart of tofu’. What’s the use of that? How many people see through your words to your heart?”

“All the Chinese care about is ‘face’, but they don’t understand how their faces are linked to the rest of their bodies.”

“Jingyi said that women were like water and men like mountains -was this a valid comparison? I put this question to my listeners, and received almost two hundred replies in a week. Of these, more than ten came from my colleagues. Big Li wrote: ‘Chinese men need women in order to form a picture of themselves -as mountains are reflected in streams. But streams flow from the mountains. Where then is the true picture?”

“Men want a woman who is a virtuous wife, a good mother, and can do all the housework like a maid. Outside the home, she should be attractive and cultivated, and be a credit to him.

In bed, she must be nymphomaniac. What is more, Chinese men also need their women to manage their finances and earn a lot of money, so they can mingle with the rich and powerful. Modern Chinese men sigh over the abolition of polygamy. That old man Gu Hongming at the end of the Qing dynasty said that ‘one man is best siuted to four women, as a teapot is best suited to four cups’. And modern Chinese men want another cup to fill with money too.”

“When we are alone with each other, all you hear are the noises of animal existence: eating, drinking and going to the toilet. Only when there are visitors is there a breath of humanity. In this family, I have neither a wife’s rights nor a mother’s position. My husband says I’m like a faded grey cloth, not good enough to make trousers out of, to cover the bed, or even to be used as a dishcloth. All I’m good for is wiping mud off feet. To him, my only function is to serve as evidence of his ‘simplicity, diligence and upright character’ so he can move on to higher office.”

“When you walk into your memories, you are opening a door to the past; the road within has many branches, and the route is different every time.”

“Amidst the large pile of letters, one immediately caught my attention: the envelope had been made from the cover of a book and there was a chichen feather glued to it. According to Chinese tradition, a chicken feather is an urgent distress signal.”


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