• China Photos/Getty

    Documentary

    China's Last Foot-Binding Survivors

    Photographer Jo Farrell has tracked down the last living survivors of a horrific practice that isn't as ancient as you think.

    In rural China, where the neon lights of the country’s big cities don’t shine, traces of the old country remain—hidden in tiny shoes.

    Foot binding, the cruel practice of mutilating the feet of young girls, was once pervasive in turn-of-the-century China, where it was seen as a sign of wealth and marriage eligibility. For a millennium—from the 10th to 20th centuries—the practice flourished on and off, deeply ingrained in Chinese society. Even after it was outlawed in 1912, many women continued to clandestinely bind their daughters’ feet, believing it would make them more attractive to suitors.

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  • Anchee Min (Bloomsbury Publishing)

    Quiet Strength

    A Red Azalea on American Shores

    Bestselling author Anchee Min pens a second memoir about her long, hard road to success in the U.S.

    The Daily Beast: What made you decide to tell the second part of your story now? The first part, about your childhood in Mao’s China, you told in Red Azalea. What made you decide to talk about coming to America in The Cooked Seed?

    Anchee Min: I think it had to do with my daughter. She was born in Chicago and grew up in America ... raising her was a learning experience. She grew up here and when she was applying to colleges a few years ago, she said, 'You know, Mom, you have a platform.' Lauryann reminded me that I had a platform, and that I represented a population of immigrants who are voiceless. Back in China, I wrote Red Azalea because so many of the people that I knew in labor camps, they just vanished. And I had this survivor's guilt and I came here and wrote Red Azalea—it was voice they didn’t have, and I voiced it for them. And it never occurred to me that I could represent a population here that was also voiceless. But it makes sense. Because I came here without English, with no education, so therefore I could only work on low-end jobs and live in the bottom of the American society. Which turned out to be a blessing for me as a writer—it made the foundation for The Cooked Seed.

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  • Karl Johaentges/Getty, Karl Johaentges

    Bling, Bling

    China’s Mistress Industry

    If you’re pretty and educated, there’s a booming new job market for women—as someone’s mistress. What the growing number of those relationships means for China.

    Spend a Tuesday afternoon in one of the high-end shopping malls in China’s capital city, and you will see for yourself what has China buzzing with gossip—a group of beautiful, young Chinese women with fake eyelashes and sparkling manicures, out to show off their Prada purses and Mikimoto pearls. This is China’s mistress culture out in full force.

    Stories of Chinese adultery have splashed across headlines in recent months, as the country’s crackdown on corruption brings to light newfound official indiscretions. Although China’s culture is commonly perceived as conservative, surveys reveal that “non-commercial” infidelity is rife, and anecdotal evidence suggests it is trending up.

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  • Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Photographer: Xunling

    Iron ladies

    Cixi Who Must Be Obeyed

    Jung Chang's new book tackles the legend and legacy of Empress Dowager Cixi, the concubine who modernized China.

    “It is necessary,” writes Niccolò Machiavelli in his famous treatise on the craft of ruling, “to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.” Shrewd statesmen from antiquity through the Florentine’s day and beyond have embodied this alchemical mix of the vulpine and the leonine in their quest to consolidate power, and their names gild our history books: Cesare Borgia. Catherine de’ Medici. Maximilien Robespierre. Mao Tse-Tung. Yet one iron-willed leader is conspicuously absent from the Princes’ Hall of Fame, at least in the West: that of China’s original ‘Dragon Lady’, the Empress Dowager Cixi. Adored and feared during her Methuselian lifetime, demonized by later Republicans and Communists as a concupiscent tyrant who sold China out to the Europeans, Cixi has been an object of fascination and scorn ever since she seized the reins of the Manchu dynasty in 1861 in a carefully calculated palace coup. Still, despite a handful of attempts to sort through the myths surrounding her life and legacy, Cixi’s name has remained synonymous with feminine wickedness and imperial perfidy.

    Enter Jung Chang, the London-based author of the best-selling Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story, both of which remain banned in her homeland. Chang is a meticulous researcher, as displayed in her Mao biography, which was heralded as a “magisterial” work of serious scholarship (and which aired some of the Chairman's dirtiest secrets and worst atrocities). For her next act, she’s trained her sleuthing skills and piercing pen on the common concubine who rose to rule China, and what she’s uncovered is nothing short of imposing. Empress Dowager Cixi is a hefty work, close to 400 pages total—by the midway point alone, Cixi is already 60 years old, with many assassination attempts yet to survive and massive reforms yet to wreak—as painstaking in detail as it is sweeping in scope. Chang captures the minutiae of court life—Cixi’s daily allowance of meat (70 pounds of pork, one chicken, one duck), the ‘sunset calls’ of the eunuchs—as well as the churning backdrop of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Great Game was rushing to carve up Asia and restive rebellions roiled China’s countryside. Whether or not the book ever sees the light of day in Beijing and Shanghai, Chang’s new tome is certain to become the standard by which all future biographies of the Dowager Empress are measured.

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  • Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty

    It’s a good thing. Kind of.

    Liu Yu, a Tsinghua University political-science professor and respected author, is often referred to as Liu Yu Xiansheng, or the equivalent of Mr. Liu Yu—although Mr. Liu Yu recently gave birth to a daughter. In China, the phrase “xiansheng” is usually reserved for men—or well-respected women, who have been “really elevated to the status of a man,” said Mei Zhang, who works in Hong Kong in finance. “As a woman, you have to be really outstanding to be called it, whereas if you are a man, it can be anybody.” Liu herself called it “funny and quite sad” that she had earned the phrase in her 30s, because the phrase was usually used for older women or teachers. With the birth of social media—especially Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service—more and more younger women are earning the designation.

    Read it at The New York Times
  • A mother and daughter walk together on a street in Shanghai on July 1, 2013. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty)

    CALL YOUR MOM

    China Orders Woman to Visit Mother

    Part of new parental law.

    A 77-year-old woman in China won a lawsuit against her own daughter, in the wake of a new law requiring parental care. The woman’s daughter will now have to visit her every two months, and she and her husband will also be required to provide financial support. She had originally refused to care for her mother any longer after an argument, prompting the elderly woman to sue. As China’s population ages, and stories of elderly neglect have made headlines, there is pressure to make sure older men and women are taken care of. The new law—in effect as of Monday—requires adult children to visit their parents but does not lay out the frequency of visits. The “Elderly Rights Law,” has sparked ridicule online, despite China’s tradition of respecting and caring for elderly parents and relatives.  

    Read it at BBC
  • A police officer arrests a group of young girls suspected of prostitution during a raid on a massage parlor in Fuzhou, China on August 23, 2010. (AFP/Getty)

    Embarrassment

    Superpowers Face Trafficking Sanctions

    China and Russia have been downgraded to the worst possible ranking on the State Department’s new Trafficking in Persons report. Nina Strochlic talks to human-rights groups on the possibility of sanctions and how Secretary Kerry stuck up for the victims.

    Human-trafficking experts celebrated a major win Wednesday when the U.S. officially called out three strategic allies—China, Russia, and Uzbekistan—for their deplorable human-rights efforts and threatened them with sanctions.

    Implicit in the State Department's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report is the message that holding a country accountable for its human-rights efforts is worth at least as much as a rosy socioeconomic relationship. By downgrading economic powerhouses China and Russia, along with the developing economy of Uzbekistan, America has moved the countries to a level where they could face sanctions over their lackluster attempts to crack down on human trafficking.

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  • Indonesian women stage a protest wearing miniskirts at Jakarta's central roundabout on September 18, 2011 to denounce remarks made by Jakarta city Governor Fauzi Bowo who blamed a gang rape on the alleged victim's choice of clothing. (ROMEO GACAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES) (ROMEO GACAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

    Sexual Harassment

    Miniskirt Bans? Try Jail Time.

    China and other societies need to stop blaming women's clothing choices and start cracking down on harassers.

    This past Monday, the police in Beijing issued a set of travel guidelines for Chinese women who use public transport in an effort to avoid sexual harassment. What the Chinese police don’t recognize, however, is that by issuing a dress code for women on public transportation won’t stop sexual harassers from harassing women. What will stop the sexual harassers? Longer and harsher sentences. According to one Chinese police officer, the maximum punishment for harassment in Beijing is only a measly 15-day detention. So, if China thinks that telling women to wear less tight clothing and no mini skirts, so be it… but the harassment won’t stop until there are harsher punishments for the (mostly) men.

    TK

    Read it at Purposefully Scarred
  • Gay couples kiss during their ceremonial 'wedding' as they try to raise awareness of the issue of homosexual marriage, in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, March 8, 2011. Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder in China until 2001. Today, gays face crushing social and family pressure and many remain in the closet as a result, despite gradual steps towards greater acceptance. (STR/AFP/Getty)

    China’s Fake Gay Marriages

    Joanna Chiu on lesbians and gays getting married in sham marriages.

    Xiaojiong has the ultimate online dating success story. On a Chinese matchmaking forum, she not only found her current husband—she found her current girlfriend, too.

    Born in Shenyang, a city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, Xiaojiong grew up not knowing another lesbian. As a teenager searching for love, or at least some friends, she sometimes took the train down to Beijing but felt awkward in the city's rowdy girl bars.

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  • AFP/Getty Images

    Power Couple

    Iceland’s Gay P.M. Tours China With Wife

    LGBT activists in the Middle Kingdom hope visit will soften China’s stance on gay rights.

    It seems America isn’t the only country strengthening its alliance with China. Iceland, the first European nation to recognize China’s full market economic status, is actively looking to improve its bilateral trade relations with the Middle Kingdom. The country’s first openly gay prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, is visiting China with her wife on a five-day tour that began this past Saturday. During the visit, she plans to sign a historic free-trade agreement in a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang, which promises to enrich both China’s and Iceland’s economic futures. Another stop on the agenda might be coffee with a grassroots, Guangzhou-based organization devoted to advancing the rights of the LGBT community. Representatives there have confirmed reaching out to Sigurdardottir and her wife, and hope the invitation will reach the couple. Although homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders in China in 2001, a worker at PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) tells the website Shanghaiist’s Shannon Najmabadi that tensions surrounding the topic are still high. He hopes that the prime minister’s visit “will be a real-life lesson in equal rights taught to our state leaders.” With a gay population in China now estimated at approximately 50 million, Sigurdardottir’s visit resonates on more levels than just economic.

    Read it at Shanghaiist
  • John Leicester/AP

    REEDUCATION

    Women’s-Labor-Camp Abuse Horrifies China

    Monthly Chinese magazine publishes tales of abuse at a police-run women’s prison with as many as 190,000 inmates.

    Lens, a monthly Chinese magazine, last week published horrifying tales of abuse at a police-run women’s labor camp that has as many as 190,000 inmates at any given time—and the story caused a sensation before the state’s propaganda authorities shut down all publication of the magazine. Yuan Lin, an investigative journalist for Lens, writes that traditional methods of torture were routine in the camp, and he said he met women from other camps who said similar torture occurred. Yuan said he spent five years interviewing prisoners from labor camps, with one 62-year-old former inmate even telling him that she left the Masanjiao reeducation camp with a rolled-up diary written on waterproof material, hidden in her vagina, so she could share the tales of what went on. Physical abuse, including hogtyings and beatings, was common, with some women even being crippled by it. Some of the abuses outlined included “hanging up high,” or suspending a woman by stretched-out arms; “tiger bench,” when a woman was seated on a bench, tied down at the waist, and then a brick was inserted underneath her knees; and “dead person’s bed,” or a woman being tied to a bed with her legs spread, possibly with a hole to defecate.

    It wasn’t until now, with recent reforms, that Yuan thought he could even publish them—except the state-run propaganda office promptly shut down the publication of Lens shortly after the issue dropped. But one article has survived the purge: an interview with Yuan in the China Women’s Newspaper, which is published by the All-China Women’s Federation, a Communist Party organization—which could in itself be a sign that reform of the prison system might be on its way in China.

    Read it at The New York Times
  • Soho China chairman Pan Shiyi, left, with wife Zhang Xin, CEO of Soho China, attend a press conference in Hong Kong on March 13, 2009. (Lo Ka Fai/China Photos, via Getty)

    Boss Ladies

    Get Married to Get Ahead in China

    China’s richest businesswomen are often still tied to the fortunes of their husbands.

    Why are marriage and business so intertwined in China?

    Chinese has a word, laobanniang, or “boss lady,” that originally meant “the boss’s wife.” Eventually, it came to be used for female bosses as well. But, because businesses in China tend to be run by husband-and-wife pairs, “boss lady” often implies, “the boss’s wife who runs the business.”

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  • Ng Han Guan/AP

    Music Is Power

    China First Lady Sang to Tiananmen Troops

    After Beijing's bloody 1989 military crackdown.

    A photo of China’s glamorous First Lady Peng Liyuan singing to martial law troops following the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters reignited the debate about the role of the president’s wife in the communist country this week. As a popular singer in China, 50-year-old Peng laid low in the years leading up to her husband, Xi Jinping’s election. Now that Xi is the number one leader of the Chinese Communist Party, however, many hope Liyuan will be able to sing the CCP back into good favor. The swiftly deleted image of a pony-tailed, military-uniform-wearing Peng shows a very different side of the first lady, who has appeared in “trendy suits and coiffed hair” this week while touring Russia and Africa with Xi. As a major general in the People’s Liberation Army, Peng’s step into the spotlight has been shrouded in praise for her “beauty and charm.”

    Read it at Associated Press