The Holy of Holies is the nickname that the stepchildren give to Niang and Father’s room, which becomes a representation of Niang’s unlimited power over the family, wielded with Father’s complicity. The name itself is telling: in the Hebrew Bible, the Holy of Holies is a room in the Jewish temple where God’s physical presence literally dwells. This bitterly mocks the god-like power that Niang has ascribed to herself. The parallel is apt: In the traditional Holy of Holies, entrants would either have the opportunity to communicate directly with God or they would be struck dead, depending on their worthiness. In the same way, when the stepchildren are called into Niang’s room, they are made to reckon with her on her own turf and may receive either ruthless punishment or some small reward, depending on their stepmother’s mood and whether she desires to see them fearful or loyal on that day. The emotionally abusive mixture of fear and loyalty that Niang instills in the stepchildren typifies the way in which Niang wields power and instills herself as a constant, dominating force in the children’s minds, even when she is not present. Niang’s power—the persistent fear of her that the stepchildren carry with them, as well as the desire to appease her—is centralized in her room, the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the household’s God.
The Holy of Holies Quotes in Chinese Cinderella
“It’s because we won the election today. I’m now class president. We worked hard at it—”
Niang interrupted me in the middle of my explanation. “Stop bragging!” she screamed. “Who do you think you are? … You are getting altogether too proud and conceited! No matter what you consider yourself to be, you are nothing without your father. Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!”
Father looked radiant. For once, he was proud of me. In front of his revered colleague…I had given him face.