Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chinese Women

During the three years we lived in China, I would often search the faces of the women I passed on the streets of Shanghai and Beijing. I wondered what they had seen as China underwent the changes in their lifetimes. Did their mothers have bound feet? Were they witness to the Japanese occupation? Had their education halted with the Cultural Revolution? Were they in the Red Guard perhaps? Did they marry for politics or love, or by arrangement?

The oldest women walked arm in arm, holding each other for stability, talking closely. The youngest women, doted-upon only children born into China’s rising affluence, walked hand in hand, laughing and gossiping as though sisters. Those of middle-age looked purposeful; they were more often alone, unless they were out at lunchtime, buying noodles or salads to enjoy together.

Chinese women must share some common nature, I figured. If we can casually say that all French women are elegant, or Japanese women are deferential, or Russian women are imposing, then what of Chinese women? Any such reduction comes up short, of course, but there is something there we recognize. Here are three points that together, I believe, capture a sense of the spirit of Chinese women: They are pragmatic, they are tenderhearted and they are a force to be reckoned with.

For more of this essay on "The True Spirit of Chinese Women", please click here

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