In a town named Xian in China in the year 1914, darkness crept upon the evening light. A scream splattered the stillness, as a 3-year-old girl was having her feet bound. Distress and agony showed on her face as she struggled against the clutches of her mother. Her grandmother, who was doing the binding, looked up for a brief moment, but put her head quickly down as she felt her heart melt for her little angel, her granddaughter Chang. She knew that she had to follow her son-in-law’s order. He had already planned to join his daughter’s hand with the General’s son who lived in the lavish house next door. He had said firmly: “Bind her feet as small as you can. The smaller they are, the more impressed will the General be,” and he replied softly, “the faster she gets married, the quicker we shall get the store.”
A new scream brought her back to the present. Tears flooded Chang’s face, and her eyes were red and swollen. She would always remember this day.
Through a small crack in the window, the small body, the General’s son, stood in a trance-like-state, viewing the scene before him. He saw a little girl screaming, and his heart went out to her. He quietly decided that he would make her happy one day.
In 1917, the binding of feet was banned by the Chinese government, and some of those who had bound feet just started removing their bindings, but it was not possible for Chang. The General’s son, Que, had proposed marriage to Chang to her father, and according to her father’s wishes Chang had to get married with her feet bound. As for the tradition, she was carried on a royal chair to visit all the four gates of the town and was then taken to her husband Zue’s house.
At the age of 13, both understood each other very well, and both understood what each other wanted. One night as Chang lay on her bed with the moonlight illuminating her face, her breathing soft and even, Zue entered the room carrying a bowl of warm water. He kneeled quietly in front of her feet and slowly started unbinding her bound feet. As the last fold was removed, he gasped with shock. Dry skin was peeling from her feet, and they were in an odd shape which clearly showed that they were broken. He had promised to make her happy, and the only way he could do that was to get married to her because he knew that other men would have considered her small feet fashionable.
As he quietly bathed her feet in the warm water, she woke with a start, and her eyes fell on him. She tried to pull back her feet, but he just held them tightly, not allowing her to pull them back. He looked up to her and asked, “Chang, do you want your feet bound?” She shook her head vigorously, and her loose black hair felt straight along her shoulder.
He replied, “In that case, I’m going to help you with your feet.” Gently, he kept her feet straight and bound them such that her feet would look normal and grow again. Chang, who watched him intently silently and quietly fell back to sleep. Zue kissed her gently on her forehead and left her alone in her world of fantasy.
“Zue!” The General’s voice basked in the morning.”Chang hasn’t yet come to the store. Her father and I made a deal that the store’s profit would be shared between us, but if she doesn’t work, her father will not get the profit,” his voice snarled at Zue. “Go find her. Our shop is not profiting, and we need her to influence people to come to our store.”
Zue went to her room and saw Chang struggling to stand and walk. He helped her, and she smiled at him and his heart soared.
Four years later, the General passed away, and his magnificent and profitable store went to Chang and Zue. Due to the absence of the General, many people started coming to the store. Chang walked normally with only a slight limp. The store’s two wellwishers, Chang and Zue, looked at each other as a smile escaped both their lips. They held a secret, which would become the world’s knowledge in a few months.