Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Elder Superiority

            In the 1940’s, and even now, there has been a large tradition of strict respect and superiority of elders. Many families in the Chinese culture live together, usually with three to four generations under a single roof. There is large superiority by the grandparents and crowded living conditions because of the many generations in one house. In Chinese Cinderella, Jung-ling’s family is taken by surprise when her NeNe (Grandmother in Chinese) dies of old age. Once their mourning period ends, the oldest family member of the next generation took charge. That family member happens to be her Stepmother, Niang, who abuses her power and takes favor over Jung-ling and her siblings for her own blood-children. With grandparent superiority comes abuse of power and unjust decisions made within the family.  According to tradition, elders of the family are in charge of decision making; and as a sign of respect, all family members are to agree with them. Since this is happening, no one else is able to disagree with the decision made, or speak their minds. When Niang takes over Jung-ling’s NeNe’s position, she also begins to make decisions for the family; and when others disagree, or speak out about her decision, Niang would then fight with them and wave them off as if they were nothing.

Chinese Foot Binding

            The Chinese also believe that small feet are very beautiful, and parents would bind their children’s feet to stunt their feet’s growth. The goal of foot binding is to stunt the growth of the feet around the age of 5 to 7, so that the feet are no more than 4 inches long. Many girls in the 1940’s, 50’s, and even now in modern day, would have horribly repulsive and distorted feet that were incredibly painful to them, and unattractive to others. Foot binding makes walking a very difficult task, and can cause the feet to give off vile smells.

Superstition: The Bad Luck Child

            Another Chinese tradition is the belief in superstitions. It is believed that if a mother dies while giving birth, or soon after, her child is considered bad luck. A child that has lost a mother whilst giving childbirth can struggle socially and emotionally; which can affect their life forever.  If the family is incredibly strict, they too will ignore the child and treat them unjustly. For example, Jung-ling’s mother dies shortly after her birth, and because of that her entire family considers her as bad luck, which affects her entire childhood.