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Bound Feet & Western Dress–A Memoir

文章日期:2010年8月20日

I don’t remember when and where I got the book, but according to the date I put on the inside cover, it must have been in my possession for over a decade. I had read the books several times, as I always do with all other books I love, when I decided to bring it along to enjoy again on my trip to Ningxia this summer. I met a lovely Chinese girl there who excitedly shared with me her magnificent performance in the national college entrance exam and her bursting passion for starting university this fall. I gave the book to this young girl born and raised in China as a congratulatory gift and an encouragement to fully utilize the opportunities bestowed upon Chinese women today.

Hsu Chih-Mo and Chang Yu-I are husband and wife in a marriage arranged by their parents. The Cambridge educated poet and the almost illiterate country girl are worlds apart, despite Chang's efforts to keep pace with a much westernized Hsu who is lost in the dilemma and melancholic temptation of modernization. He is like an agitated caged animal desperately yearning to break away from Chang, the other being in the same prison of marriage.

Then her in-laws send Chang to Cambridge to provide company for Hsu who is pursuing an education there. Does her presence fuel his desire for a divorce? No one knows, but Hsu does announce his decision to his pregnant wife one evening, his reason being:“Bound feet and western dress do not go together; that's why I want a divorce.”

Chang is now left to her own devices in a foreign land, with no English, no family and little money. With immense will power and determination, she rises to occasion after occasion, never feeling any self-pity, or boasting self-elevation as hurdles fall one after another - a woman's triumph undreamt of in those days. She becomes a successful educator, entrepreneur and banker.

As Chang speaks to the author of this book, it is as if she is telling someone else's story. She is ever so calm, so cool, but there is the unmistakable flow of energy from her to all generations of Chinese women after her.

Reviewed by Ms. Brenda Mau, Principal of St. Mark's School

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