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By taking a Modern World Literature class, one should expect to read novels about cultures throughout the world, and I think Snow Flower and the Secret Fan did a wonderful job in portraying the customs and traditions of mid nineteenth century China. Therefore I think Snow Flower and the Secret Fan should be kept on the syllabus.
In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, readers learn many aspects of the society and time period where the novel took place. Confucian ideals, gender roles, and cultural traditions are some of the topics addressed in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
The Confucian ideals consisted of three obedience’s and four virtues. “When a girl, obey your father, when a wife obey your husband, and when a widow obey your son. Women should be chaste and yielding, calm and upright in attitude, quiet and agreeable in words, exquisite in movement and perfect in handiwork and embroidery (See 24).”
In Chinese tradition family is very important. Readers learn that the Chinese family structure is virilocal, and patriarchal. After women married and had their first child they permanently moved into their husbands homes, leaving their natal homes behind.
To marry, women in China subjected themselves to foot binding, a painful process that Lisa See describes in great length. Most women of China subjected themselves to this to move up in society. Women who chose not to conform to this tradition often became servants.
Aside from the many cultural aspects Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has, the novel also has underlying historical significance. Part of it takes place during the Tai Ping Rebellion, a widespread civil war that occurred in southern China from 1850 to 1864.
What’s really great about this novel is that readers learn about traditions like the women’s language of nu shu that no longer exists today. This novel sheds light on life through the women’s perspective.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a great book to read in a Literature class because your able to relate topics in the novel to today’s society. I had little knowledge on Chinese traditions. Having read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I have gained insight into the Chinese culture.

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