Chinese Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella

The Holy of Holies Symbol Analysis

The Holy of Holies Symbol Icon

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

The Chinese Cinderella quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Holy of Holies. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Physical and Emotional Abuse Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ember edition of Chinese Cinderella published in 2010.
Chapter 14: Class President Quotes

“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!”

Related Symbols: The Holy of Holies
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 21: Playwriting Competition Quotes

Father looked radiant. For once, he was proud of me. In front of his revered colleague…I had given him face.

Related Symbols: The Holy of Holies
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Holy of Holies Symbol Timeline in Chinese Cinderella

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Holy of Holies appears in Chinese Cinderella. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8: Tram Fare
Physical and Emotional Abuse Theme Icon
Toxic Family Theme Icon
...midst of rainstorms and cold weather. Each week, the other stepchildren enter Niang’s room, nicknamed the Holy of Holies , and beg for their fare. Big Sister even starts to brag about her coins... (full context)
Chapter 14: Class President
Physical and Emotional Abuse Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Self-Worth Theme Icon
Toxic Family Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Niang and Father are sitting together in the Holy of Holies , furious. Niang accuses Adeline of planning the party herself to show off their luxurious... (full context)
Chapter 21: Playwriting Competition
Physical and Emotional Abuse Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Self-Worth Theme Icon
The Power of Stories Theme Icon
...the first time at her parents’ new home, Adeline is directed to see Father in his room . The rest of the family is away and the house is empty. When she... (full context)