Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Feet Symbol Icon

In the time and place of the novel, unless a girl was very poor and destined to be a servant (like Yonggang), she would have her feet bound starting at six years old. The goal was for a woman's feet to be between 2.5 and 5 inches long when fully grown—the smaller the feet, the more beautiful the woman was considered to be. The painful process of foot binding also prepared a girl to weather the pain of the rest of her life, which would include the emotional pain of a mother-in-law who would never truly accept her and hopefully, the pain of childbirth. A woman's feet, then, become a symbol of the pain she's endured, and a reminder of the pain she must endure throughout her life once her foot binding process is over, simply by virtue of being female. While Lily conceptualizes her first few years of life with unbound feet as the only freedom she ever experiences, she also looks down on women with unbound feet and sees their lives as sad and limited. Because those women don't carry the evidence of their pain in the form of bound feet, they're denied other rites of passage (like marriage) and the ability to move up in society.

Feet Quotes in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan quotes below all refer to the symbol of Feet. 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:
Women and Gender Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan published in 2006.
Daughter Days: Footbinding Quotes

For us, the pain didn't lessen. How could it? But we learned the most important lesson for all women: that we must obey for our own good.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Third Sister, Beautiful Moon
Related Symbols: Feet
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Snow Flower and the Secret Fan quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

"A true lady lets no ugliness into her life," she repeated again and again, drilling the words into me. "Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you find peace. I wrap, I bind, but you will have the reward."

Related Characters: Mama (speaker), Lily
Related Symbols: Feet
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

"I would rather keep her on this earth unmarried than lose her forever."
"Then she would have no purpose and no value," Aunt reasoned. "Your mother love tells you this is no future."

Related Characters: Mama (speaker), Aunt (speaker), Third Sister
Related Symbols: Feet
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Daughter Days: Snow Flower Quotes

"My mother bound my feet—and me to the chair—even tighter the next time."
"You can't fight your fate," I said. "It is predestined."

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Snow Flower (speaker), Snow Flower's Mother
Related Symbols: Feet
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Rice-and-Salt Days: Sons Quotes

With her bold act, I realized the true purpose of our secret writing. It was not to compose girlish notes to each other or even to introduce us to the women in our husbands' families. It was to give us a voice. Our nu shu was a means for our bound feet to carry us to each other, for our thoughts to fly across the fields as Snow Flower had written.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Snow Flower
Related Symbols: Birds and Flying, Feet
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt Lorem Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse c

Rice-and-Salt Days: Letter of Vituperation Quotes

And then the strangest thing happened. An image of my mother came to my mind. I remembered that as a child I'd wanted her to love me. I'd thought if I did everything she asked during my footbinding, I would earn her affection.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Snow Flower, Mama
Related Symbols: Feet
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure do

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cLorem iLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui offic

Get the entire Snow Flower LitChart as a printable PDF.
Snow flower and the secret fan.pdf.medium

Feet Symbol Timeline in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The timeline below shows where the symbol Feet appears in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Sitting Quietly
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...behaved obediently to try to win affection, but was too willing to obey. During her foot binding, Lily says, her mother encouraged her and reminded her of the rewards that would... (full context)
Daughter Days: Milk Years
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...that Aunt and Uncle are perfectly matched ugly people with an ideal marriage, although Aunt's feet are too big and there are rumors that this is why she couldn't carry sons... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...Aunt is stubborn and reasons that "they only have these few months," as soon their feet will be bound. Mama gives in and the girls run outside. They find Elder Brother... (full context)
Daughter Days: Footbinding
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Lily says that girls in her county have their feet bound starting at age six. Lily is still outside running, but Mama has already begun... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Mama and Aunt send for Diviner Hu to select an auspicious date to begin their foot binding. Lily is scared, as she's heard the screams of other girls undergoing the process.... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...hesitates, Madame Wang picks her up and sits her down, and then takes off Lily's shoes to inspect her feet. (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
When Madame Wang reclaims her seat, Diviner Hu says that Lily's feet are underdeveloped, and so Mama needs to wait a year to begin binding them. He... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...good luck and meant to scare away bad spirits, as nothing can guarantee perfectly bound feet, and the slap is further indicative of Mama's “mother love.” Lily tells the reader that... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Four Virtues that delineate proper behavior for women. She begins learning to sew, starts making shoes to wear during her foot binding, and Aunt starts teaching her nu shu. Lily explains... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...their bones to be soft. The girls are congratulated on entering womanhood. Lily knows that foot binding will make her more marriageable, which will allow her to achieve the goal of... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Third Sister offer the Tiny-Footed Maiden rice balls, and Mama and Aunt offer their miniature shoes to a statue of Guanyin. They gather their supplies, and Lily goes first. Mama washes... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
When the wrapping is finished, Mama and Aunt instruct the girls to get up. Lily's feet are throbbing, but Mama yanks her up and tells her to walk. Mama, Elder Sister,... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Mama sharply instructs her to keep moving through the excruciating pain. When Mama rewraps Lily's feet a few days later, she tells Lily that she will have only have beauty through... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
When it begins to snow outside, the bones in Lily's mid-foot break. Third Sister becomes feverish, and one day when Mama and Aunt are downstairs, Elder... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...heard many sayings during those months and didn't understand their meaning, understanding only that her foot size will determine her worth—it will be an indicator of her ability to endure pain... (full context)
Daughter Days: The Fan
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
The most painful part of foot binding is over, and Lily and Beautiful Moon spend their days sitting and working on... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Lily's family decides to accept the laotong relationship. Mama helps Lily embroider shoes to send to Snow Flower as a first gift, and Aunt helps Lily compose a... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
When Lily is finished with the fan and the shoes, she worries that Snow Flower's family won't accept the relationship. When Madame Wang sees the... (full context)
Daughter Days: Snow Flower
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...is very pretty and wears a blue silk tunic embroidered with clouds, along with the shoes Lily made. The girls smile at each other. Madame Wang sits in the middle of... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Alone at last, Snow Flower and Lily tell each other about their families and their foot binding. Snow Flower says that she struggled so much that she was tied to a... (full context)
Daughter Days: Learning
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
When Snow Flower, Beautiful Moon, and Lily turn 11, their feet are healed. Lily's are smallest, Snow Flower's are slightly larger, and Beautiful Moon's are even... (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: Catching Cool Breezes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
...clothing. On the third night, which is hotter still, the girls strip down to their foot bindings and sleeping slippers, but are still far too warm. Snow Flower fans Lily with... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...idea that there's nothing more erotic for a man than a naked woman in her sleeping slippers , but says that her eyes lingered on Snow Flower's slippers nonetheless. Lily licks her... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
...her hand down Lily's body and says they have two more lines. Moving to the foot of the bed, she takes Lily's feet in her lap and traces the third line... (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: Beautiful Moon
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...The girls are required to make clothes for themselves, as well as enough quilts, pillowcases, shoes, and other household textiles to last a lifetime. All the girls love making shoes, as... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...and the heat has not yet broken. Lily speaks of the memory of putting her feet in the river as a child, and Beautiful Moon and Snow Flower speak of their... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Lily hasn't been outside in her village since her feet were bound, and she relishes the rhythm of village life. Lily embroiders a serene landscape... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Lily instructs Snow Flower to get help and Snow Flower runs off on her tiny feet, yelling for help. Lily notices a bee on Beautiful Moon's embroidery. Beautiful Moon's face, neck,... (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: The Flower-Sitting Chair
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...seated, and Lily’s mother-in-law sets a bowl of soup before her. Lily notices her mother-in-law's feet, and she panics when she sees that she wears shoes that are much finer than... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...life, and one achieves beauty through pain. These are the same words she used during foot binding, and Lily wonders if bed business is that bad. Mama continues and says, "you... (full context)
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...business, and then says that Lady Lu was very impressed by Lily's fragility and beautiful feet. She instructs Lily to close her eyes and sleep. (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...could be happy together. He follows all the traditions that night and puts on Lily's sleeping slippers for her. For Lily, this is more intimate than the sex that follows. (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: Truth
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...to greet her. She goes to fetch Snow Flower, and Lily notices her small lily feet, thinking it's unusual for servants to have bound feet. Lily is shocked to see Snow... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...prepared. He planned to sell Snow Flower as a “little daughter-in-law” (a concubine with unbound feet), but “Auntie Wang” saved her by binding her feet. Lily is aghast that Madame Wang... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...Madame Wang admits that she wanted someone from a better family, but says that Lily's feet were very special and would've changed her fate anyway. She continues, saying that she told... (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: The Temple of Gupo
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...says that she gave Lily the life she now has because she personally bound her feet. Lily snarls that she won't expect kindness from Mama anymore, and although she'll be charitable... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Sons
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...the true purpose of nu shu is to give women a candid voice, allowing their feet to carry them to each other and their thoughts to fly to each other. Lily... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Into the Mountains
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...watch the fire behind them. When the cart can go no further, they continue on foot. The next afternoon, the road turns into a narrow path. Elders sit abandoned along the... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
By the second night, Lily sees young girls whose foot bindings have just begun—abandoned. Little boys beg for help, but Lily asks how you can... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Winter
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
The winter wears on in the mountains. It takes a month for Lily's feet to heal. When they do, she begins searching the groups in the mountains to find... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Letter of Vituperation
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...and Snow Flower make offerings at the Temple of Gupo, they discuss their daughters' impending foot binding. Lily realizes that while she is very happy, Snow Flower doesn't gain weight and... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...the same sort of distance. Lily doesn't write Snow Flower back, and doesn't start Jade's foot binding on the date that she and Snow Flower set. (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Lily burns it, as well as the next few that come as she starts Jade's foot binding. Lily explains that she started "Cutting a Disease from My Heart," or erasing all... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Jade bears much of Lily's suffering. Lily wraps her feet tightly and channels her anger into chasing Jade across the room. She repeats what Mama... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...to Snow Flower, and then kindly says that while Lily once had nothing but pretty feet, she now has an abundance of malice. (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Into the Clouds
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
Lily begins working on burial shoes for Snow Flower and embroiders curly-wing bats and deer on them. Snow Flower's feet and... (full context)
Sitting Quietly: Regret
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...son. Lily's husband obliged her wishes, and Lily sent for Madame Wang when the girl's feet were about to be bound. Madame Wang looked very old, and Lily believed she didn't... (full context)