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The Majesty of Breasts

December 7, 2010

“The Beauty of the Human Body” photo, published next to the article described below and another article on the “natural breast” movement (which I will discuss in another post)

“The Majesty of Breasts” (乳的威风 ru de weifeng – wei feng is translated in my dictionary as “power and prestige” or “majesty”)
By: He Ke (鹤客)
Published in Beiyang Huabao (北样画报,) July 30, 1927

“No matter if she wears (带 dai) a doudu (兜肚) well or if she wears (穿 chuan) the “little waistcoat” (小坎肩 xiao kanjian), women (女人) only want to press down (压 ya) the two breasts (两个奶 liang ge nai.) These women put being good looking first and being free second. This always disagrees with reason/sense because looking at people is still only a secondary problem, the first problem is people’s lives, along with the lives of children and grandchildren.”

After this quote, He tells his readers that the South (nan fang) has a “natural breast” movement (天乳运动 tianru yundong,) which is actually a very “big” thing, even if it seems quite small. The doudu and “the little waistcoat” are both special shackles (镣铐 liao kao) for Chinese women. In describing Chinese women, He uses two idioms which refer to traditional Chinese notions of beauty: 弱不禁风 (ruo bu jin feng – literally: too weak to stand a gust of wind, meaning: extremely delicate) and 娇小玲珑 (jiao xiao ling long – meaning: delicate and exquisite.)

He argues that women have a pair of natural (天生的 tian sheng de – natural, by birth, innate) two fat/plump breasts (乳房 ru fang.) He wonders what kind of shame can these natural body parts have. He says that China has reached a time when breasts should be big, so why are there people who can’t stand the sight of them and want to cover them up?

There is really nothing new in this article but He Ke places the blame for breast-binding on the “past few hundred years of ignorance,” meaning, the past few hundred years of Qing (MANCHU) rule. In the late 19th and early 20th century, it was all the rage for Han Chinese intellectuals to place all of the blame for China’s problems on the foreign Manchu leaders. In an earlier article I discussed by Wan Xianggezhu, Wan traces the first reference to breast-binding to the Zuo commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals, which was 400 BCE! He’s own bias against the former Manchu leaders is reflected in his invocation of a popular “folk” (read: Han Chinese) ballad that described the majesty of women’s breasts.

The end of He’s article is confusing. He says that in the north and the south, everything is “mama – mother” – to ride horses and to sit in sedans are all things that mothers have fallen from the top of. What? Is he saying that women have lost their honored positions? What? He ends by asking if it is possible that the breasts of women who have performed meritorious service and society women are what makes them often live under oppression (or is it that he is simply saying that the “oppressing” the breast of society women is equal to oppression?) – and then He says that this is why women need to take off the little waistcoat and that they should be like fashionable people who would never wish to bind their feet (anymore?) The last two bits of He’s article remind me that while my reading comprehension in Chinese is quite good, I still have a long, long way to go. Here is the text if anyone wants to lend a helping hand to a little girl lost:

南来的, 北往的都是"妈妈"(北方语乳也) 头上长的骑马的坐较的都是"妈妈"头上掉的.


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