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January 1923

In China, Too
by Pearl S. Buck

Yesterday … little Hsu Bao-ying came to visit me. I have known her since she was a mite, with a fat, solemn dumpling of a face … Her parents are of the good old conservative type, not believing in overmuch book-knowledge for a girl, and with an eye to a good husband and mother-in-law for the child. An older married sister, advanced in views through a five years’ residence in Shanghai, had teased them into sending Bao-ying to a boarding-school in the nearest city. When the child left last for school, last autumn, she was a tractable, meek, sweet-faced little thing, rather frightened at the prospect of leaving home. She had the patient air which all little Chinese girls have who are enduring foot-binding. I had never heard her volunteer a remark, and in my presence she had always been particularly awed and reverential …

Yesterday she came in a delicate blue satin of a more fashionable cut than I had ever seen; her feet were unbound and in little clumping, square, black-leather foreign shoes …

I could not but comment on her unusual footgear.

‘It is the very latest fashion,’ she replied with great satisfaction. ‘You know that, of course, in the big cities like Peking and Shanghai, the really fashionable girls do not bind their feet any more. At the boarding-school they don’t either; and so, when I came home, I cried for three days, without food, until for peace they un-bound my feet so that I might wear these beautiful American shoes. My feet are still too small, but I stuff cotton in the toes.’

Here was change, indeed! I fell back astounded in my chair. There she sat, slim, exquisite, and complacent, but no longer one to be condescended to, and not at all reverential.

Vol. 131, No. 1, pp. 68–72

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