30 November 2015

Three Sisters - Women, society and stories

: Bi Feiyu
Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lately I have made foray into world literature experiencing lives and stories of different cultures - after Japanese, Turkish, Czech, Nigerian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani culture its Chinese. While English is considered a universal language it is very rare to find the translations for countries which have their best works in the native language. Therefore I was quiet excited to find this book which would give me a glimpse into the very  protected Chinese literature for the first time.

When you read about new cultures you realise the differences, but at the same time wonder at the similarities. You become acceptable of others as well as your own. One can say that the status of women in a society stands a mirror to its culture and growth. 

This books shows the similarities of Chinese and Indian culture in so many respects. They don't look like us but they sure would love like us, feel like us. While the traditions and social characteristics may be different in various cultures but human feelings traverse across all boundaries. The actions and reactions may be different but feelings and emotions are just the same. 

The story is based on the lives of three women, particularly three sisters of The Wang family: Yumi  a sensible girl, as the eldest ought to be; Yusui as flighty; Yuying as well behaved, Yuye as stubborn; Yumiao as bad- tempered; Yuyang as sweet and Yuxiu a little fox fairy, a seductive girl. 

Like any other, the Chinese society has its plagues. The same old conventional gender roles and stereotypical expectations - The virtue of a woman is so important cheaper than a mans. The birth of a son is the duty of every woman. The seven children and no son to show. The try after try to give the family heir a chance to come. The notion that Daughters only take but sons keep. Good seed produced boys; bad seed produced girls. The symbol of pride for men and women to produce the real fairer sex. 

The book has been translated into English but as it was written in native Chinese and hence you see a lot of Chinese local idioms, metaphors, descriptions and references of daily lives and traditions spread over the book. The extensive use of Chinese idioms gives weight to the storytelling as well as authentic oriental flavour. Here are some words which are worth  sharing - 

The harder the bone, the better it is to gnaw. 

A woman's bust undergoes several changes: the golden breasts of a maiden, the silver breasts of a wife, and the bitch's tears of a mother.

Age among siblings often represents more than just the order of birth, it can also signal differences in the depth and breadth of life experience. Ultimately, maturity requires opportunity; the pace of growth does not rely on the progression of time alone. 

Typical of a head of household in the old days who showed approval in silence. 

He smiled, his eyes turned to slits, and the pockmarks on his face went from round to oval. 

"She's a girl you want to avoid," People said in private. It was an ambiguous comment, with multiple interpretations, a case of "The mutt can't mount the bitch unless she offers herself up." In other words, once she gets her claws into someone, she could do what she pleased.  There is plenty of talk like that. Everything is fine so long as it remains unspoken; but once it's out in the open, it gains credibility and can inflict mortal injury. 

So cane the strange consequence that she entered the marriage pregnant but never carried her husbands child. Distraught over lack of a grandchild the mother in law grumbled in front if her son: "The girl does what she shouldn't do and does not do what she should. Productive outside, lazy at home."

The common practice was to take dregs of herbal preparations outside and dump them in the middle of a road to be stepped on by passers by, who would crush them into dirt; then and only then would the treatment price effective. 

Men are like burglars: the easier the entry, the faster the departure. 

A woman can be proud, but not arrogant. The only opportunity for even the most talented woman lies in marriage. 

If the meat turns mushy in the family pot, what difference does it make which bowl it goes into.  

Unhappy women are all subject to the same phenomenon: marriage comes with unanticipated suddenness. 

Even if it was the sixty year old, Yumi was prepared to accept the match. As they say, "After this village there will be no more inns." 

While a nickname isn't a real name, often it can be more you than your real name. It zeroes in on your flaws and your most vulnerable sore spots. 

"Better to be the head of a chicken rather than the tail of a Phoenix" was her motto. 

But that's how parenting works sometimes. When you lose a mate, the natural reaction is to feel you've let your child down, and so to compensate you spoil the child, who then becomes self-indulgent and undisciplined. 

In the final analysis, men cannot be trusted. A man is one thing before he pulls out and something altogether different after - bitterly disappointing.

Where could you find anyone willing to eat sugarcane that someone else had already chewed on. 

There is something extraordinary about a government office. Whoever works in one can make decisions that determine other people's future. 

My sister is like water, always finding a way to flow downward. She manages to fit in perfectly without leaving the slightest gap. 

A make glutton is poor for a lifetime, a female glutton has loose pants. 

That is how it is with so many things; we find evidence to match the reality only after the fact, though the more we pay attention, the more problems we discover. 

So Director devised a policy he called "outside loose and inside tight." "Outside loose" meant that they must continue the normal operation of school affairs and give that particular student a false sense of security to draw her out, like enticing a snake from its den. "inside tight" required everyone to keep their eyes open and "not let go of that thread, even for a second."

Agriculture is the root of our social life with celebrations around harvest and sowing. The significance of Chonese new year. Celebrate in the first month, gamble in the second and till the fields in the third. 

Her happiness seemed like a bamboo basket: it's holes were revealed when it was taken out of water. 

The eldest was in charge, that's the way it always is. 

Someone had to suffer an injustice to achieve a balance between two contending forces. 

Transferred what is in your heart to your face is a recipe for disaster. 

With an aviator for a son in law it would be as if he himself had flown in an airplane and whenever he took a piss it would be like a day's rain. 

He thought getting married meant that he could enjoy sex any time he wanted. It had never dawned on him that marriage led only to a pregnant wife.  

Once you meet someone, it seems that you're always running into each other. 

Doodling the name of the boy you love, the shape, the squiggles, the flowers, the petals and the leaves. 

Art of misty poetry, the poetry with no punctuation. Imagine with his left hand pointing he says
Are a torch 
And the right hand
Are a Bugle

You - Chu Tian
Are a torch
You - Chu Tian
Are a bugle
You're sonorous 
You're aflame


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