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Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman

The harsh, restrictive lives of poor Chinese women from the late 19th Century to the Japanese occupation of Peking in 1938 comes to life in the true story of Ning Lao TaÆI-taÆI, translated and transcribed by American Ida Pruitt from an oral memoir, A Daughter of Han: Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman. As Pruitt cites in the bookÆs Preface, Ning Lao came to her home in China three times a week for two years ôand told me many tales and of many customs and to illustrate these customs she told me more tales until the story of her life lay before meö (p. 1). The book contains valuable, first-hand insights into social, political, religious and gender issues during the traditional time in which Ning Lao lived, the end of the Qing Dynasty.

By the bookÆs final chapters, signs of the new China emerge in the form of Communist guerillas fighting the Japanese, and Ning LaoÆs granddaughter who symbolizes the new life for Chinese women, a life that offers women a career, the opportunity to work toward oneÆs ideals, and no urgent need to marry and procreate; in other words, unlike Ning Lao, her granddaughter had the freedom to choose her destiny. Ning Lao on the other hand never had such freedom, or perhaps even wanted it. She emerges as the obedient, traditional Chinese woman who believes that ôfamily is more important than anything elseö (p. 239). The theme of the common, proscribed destiny of Chinese women is echoed throughout the book by Ning Lao who insists on the importance of children (and grandchildren) ôto carry on the life stream for usö (p. 144). In her determination to support and keep her family together (her opium-addicted husband was a liability not an asset), Ning Lao illustrates that she was not powerless over her own life in spite of her adherence to traditional values including the inferior position of women in her Chinese society, and her belief in destiny. ôFrom the time I was conceived, the fortunes of my...

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Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:03, June 19, 2019, from