Chinese Women Through Chinese Eyes by Li Yu-ning

This collection of essays written by Chinese women offers glimpses into their lives and views of such customs of footbinding and chaste widowhood. The book includes sixteen autobiographical sketches and seven interpretive essays, but I was assigned to read eighteen of the essays (numbers 4-6, 8-15, and 17-23) for my class on women in Chinese history.

Unfortunately, this book was not as captivating as the blurb on the back claims it to be. I particularly liked the first essay I read entitled “Influences of Foreign Cultures on the Chinese Woman” by Ch’en Heng-che because the author is very critical of her own culture and overly praises the influences of Western culture. Quite the opposite from my in-class discussions! The other essays, though, were not nearly as interesting or thought-provoking.

The essays were originally written in Chinese and then translated by Li, her husband, or others, often times into a far less uniform Romanization. The essays were further altered in order to conform to the Wade-Giles system, and Chinese characters contained in some of the articles as originally published have been deleted. I would be interested in seeing if the essays would be further altered if translated to the now-official Pinyin system. Translation can be such a fickle thing!

Book Mentioned:

  • Li, Yu-ning. Chinese Women Through Chinese Eyes. Translated from Chinese. Armonk, NY: East Gate Book, 1992. Print. 251 pgs. ISBN: 0873325974. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © M.E. Sharpe. Retrieved: October 30, 2011.

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