Lots of insights into old and changing China. Good writing.
From Publishers Weekly
In his intriguing 1985 novel, Feng explores complex topics (such as the troubled relationship between truth and falsehood and the dangers of overzealous attempts at social reform) primarily through Chinese foot binding, the traditional practice of breaking a young girl's feet and tightly wrapping them so that they remain only three inches long. Set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the story follows Fragrant Lotus, a poor girl whose superbly bound feet bring her to the attention of Tong Ren-an. A dealer in antiques and a bound-foot fetishist, he selects his daughters-in-law by the excellence of their feet. In the household, competition for power is fierce; dominance goes to the woman judged by Tong's friends to have the best feet. Fragrant Lotus masters the "rules, skills, tricks" of caring for her most valuable asset, but when Tong dies and reform is in the air, she must learn new skills to battle the Natural Foot Society--which calls for women to unbind their feet, a painful process--and to confront her own secret relationship with this group's leader. An afterword by Wakefield, who teaches Chinese history at the University of Missouri, provides some context for the nonspecialist.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Feng creates a world that revolves around the fine art of foot binding, the ultimate being the perfect, three-inch-long "golden lotus." Young Fragrant Lotus's perfect golden lotuses take her from her impoverished orphanhood to the leading house in Tianjin in the 1890s to the 1930s. Here, idle rich men appreciate aesthetically and erotically both the most beautiful paintings and the smallest feet and vie with one another to seek out particularly fine examples of each. Alternately horrifying and humorous, fantastic and realistic, erotic and chaste, vague and detailed, this tale is thoroughly engrossing in itself. However, it also serves as an allegory for the political situation in modern China, where a few powerful people for capricious reasons control the destinies of many helpless people. Feng is one of China's most famous, versatile, and inventive modern writers but is hardly known in the West. He deserves more translations such as this able one.
My Note: The translation is VERY choppy but the story is interesting.