I am what they call in our village “one who has not yet died”—a widow, eighty years old. Without my husband, the days are long. I no longer care for the special foods that Peony and the others prepare for me. I no longer look forward to the happy events that settle under our roof so easily. Only the past interests me now. After all this time, I can finally say the things I couldn’t when I had to depend on my natal family to raise me or rely on my husband’s family to feed me. I have a whole life to tell; I have nothing left to lose and few to offend.
Sometimes the way you find a good book, is similar to the way you find a good friend. Since a year ago, I wanted to read this book by Lisa See, although I have to mention that the film based on it was a total disappointment 😉
After the foot-binding museum visit, Myrna gave this book to me and said that she wanted to know what do I think about it – actually she wanted to give to me in the last summer but we have been too busy to catch up. However, strangly enough, now it is perhaps the best time to read it as I just learnt everything about foot-binding from the old shoe collector and then lead tours and talks about the three inches lotus feet.
For my entire life I longed for love. I knew it was not right for me—as a girl and later as a woman—to want or expect it, but I did, and this unjustified desire has been at the root of every problem I have experienced in my life.
Still as usual, Lisa’s writing is all about woman, but it is powerful. Before reading this book, I know nothing about the secret writing of nushu and laotong relation, it seems to be as old as the custom of foot-binding. The struggle and suffering of Chinese woman in old times is just such a big contrast with the amazing life style and freedom that I am enjoying right now.
I finished the book in 2 days. If there was really a past life, I wonder what I could had done as a woman.
“The Story of the Woman with Three Brothers”
A woman once had three brothers. They all had wives, but she was not married. Though she was virtuous and hardworking, her brothers would not offer a dowry. How unhappy she was! What could she do?
She’s so miserable, she goes to the garden and hangs herself from a tree.
The eldest brother walks through the garden and pretends not to see her. The second brother walks through the garden and pretends not to see that she’s dead. The third brother sees her, bursts into tears, and takes her body inside.
A woman once had three brothers. When she died, no one wanted to care for her body. Though she had been virtuous and hardworking, her brothers would not serve her. How cruel this was! What would happen?
She is ignored in death as in life, until her body begins to stink.
The eldest brother gives one piece of cloth to cover her body. The second brother gives two pieces of cloth. The third brother wraps her in as many clothes as possible so she’ll be warm in the afterworld.
A woman once had three brothers. Now dressed for her future as a spirit, her brothers won’t spend any money on a coffin. Though she was virtuous and hardworking, her brothers are stingy. How unfair this was! Would she ever find rest?
All alone, all alone, she plans her haunting days.
The eldest brother says, “We don’t need to bury her in a box. She is fine the way she is.” The second brother says, “We could use that old box in the shed.” The third brother says, “This is all the money I have. I will go and buy her a coffin.”
A woman once had three brothers. They have come so far, but what will happen to Sister now? Elder brother- mean in spirit; Second brother- cold in heart; but in Third brother love may come through.
Elder brother says, “Let’s bury her here by the water buffalo road.” (meaning she would be trampled for all eternity) Second brother says, “Let’s bury her here under the bridge.” (meaning she would wash away) But third brother – good in heart, filial in all ways – says, “We will bury her behind the house so everyone will remember her.”