I finished my book on Wednesday night. It was very well-written, and even though I had more than half left when settled into bed, I was so engrossed that I finished the entire thing. I would definitely recommend this book. I don't like to reveal more than necessary, so I won't. Except to talk about the main aspect of this book--the Chinese Laotong relationship.
A Laotong is a star-matched, destined relationship between two Chinese women. It's like a marriage, except it begins around age six, there is no sex involved, and (at least in China) it's more sacred and more fulfilling than a marriage. Remember what I said before about women having no worth or purpose except having sons...marriages in early China were not what we all hope to enter into when we walk down the aisle. There is no true love, no unabiding passion, no fun, no friendship--if a Chinese wife is lucky, she will have been betrothed to a man who does not beat her (for not bearing at least five sons) and who may, during what is referred to as "bed business," actually speak to her as his semi-equal instead of as his concubine.
The Laotong relationship is like a best friend, a spouse, and a lifelong companion, except there is a binding contract that is unrevokable. The contract is taken as though in blood. It requires Laotongs to never speak ill toward the other and to only speak truths, among other things. Chinese women take this very seriously. And, like having their feet bound, being "special" enough to be given a perfect Laotong (this occurs through a diviner deciding you are special enough and then having to find a "same" (that's what Laotong means) who was born in the same year, of the same month, and with the same pre-binding foot size) means that you may be married to someone much higher in status than yourself. So for Chinese women, it's a win-win.
The reason I bring the Laotong relationship up is that I think this should still be a tradition--for all women. Each of us has at one time or another been wronged, hurt, defamed, betrayed, etc. by the people in our lives. Although we all have friends, and maybe even best friends, we've each lost or changed best friends once, twice, if not more than that. Unlike the other early Chinese rituals and beliefs, this one hits home to me. I can think of many periods in my life in which I not only could have benefited from, but truly needed someone like a Laotong.
Of course, in our world of never being tied down, of being able to get out of every contract by paying a bit of money, of being nothing without free will, a contractual best friend or companion would never fly. Although in theory the concept would never work in America, I wish we had something similar in spirit.
Finally, I will talk about Vaginas. You see, my husband is a member of this blog, and despite the Chinese belief that the "Golden Lily" is an erotic symbol, my husband doth protest! He hates that I posted those pictures. He says it disgusts him and the only way he'd be able to stomach the pictures is if I were to post a picture of a vagina next to the "Golden Lily." (Realizing now that he didn't say I should post a picture of my own vagina--but any vagina--this gives me an idea). Now, don't get me wrong, I am very glad that my husband prefers vaginas to bound feet--but really? Post pictures of vaginas on my blog?