Author Archives: mmsmall

Enigmatic Bodies – Anna May Wong

img097Limehouse Blues, 1934

Anna May Wong:

Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American actress to receive international fame. She is known for her countless movies, such as Shanghai Express and The Toll of the Sea. Wong is the focal point of this photo due to her fame as well as success. She is dressed beautifully and simply. The way she is standing in the photo causes the observer to wonder what she is doing and this also makes her more mysterious.

Oriental woman as the focal point of the gaze!

Enigmatic Bodies:

The term “enigmatic bodies” comes from the idea of being mysterious and difficult to understand. Within the nine photos we were assigned, each expressed this idea in some way. However, I believe this photo of Anna May Wong, from the film Limehouse Blues, captures the idea best.

She is the focal point of everyones gaze. The world around her is solely focused on her. Due to this, it draws the observers eyes to her immediately as well. Something noteworthy about this photo is the fact that majority of the people in this restaurant are westerners. It makes Anna May seem like the object of their desires through their longing gazes. Also through these gazes it makes Wong appear much more mysterious. It makes the observer want to understand her and learn who this beautiful woman is right before their eyes.

introduce the thesis at the beginning of the post and support the claim with elements of denotations: the setting, the costume, the lighting effects, and the audience …. 

Having the photo lack any type of color makes it mysterious as well. We are unable to know what the scene of this restaurant really looks like. However, I think that this pairs well with the enigmatic bodies due to its mysteriousness. The black and white is very simple, but leaves a greater impression on the viewer.


The dragon was a common theme found in all our photos. Traditionally, the dragon represents power, strength and heroism among many others and has always been a symbol associated with China. Within all the photos given to my group, we noticed that a dragon appeared in each of them. Whether it was sewn into a garment or displayed in another way, the dragon is in every photo. In this photo, dragons are portrayed along the walls which emphasizes their importance. The dress Wong is wearing has very simple elements to it, but is done so intricately, making it very elegant. It also covers her completely, but still can be considering a revealing dress. Because it is tight and provocative it sexualizes Wong in some ways. The way this photo was taken, does not give us full view of the dress, but almost sends an elusion that Wong is the head of the dragon. The black background of the dress almost camouflages her and the gold is all we see. Having Wong physically become a “dragon lady” expresses her power and strength.

introduce the idea of “dragon lady” at the beginning of the paragraph and then explain why Wong is configured as a dragon lady?

This photo, to me, is still hard to completely understand. I think that was intended to be that way. I think this also goes along with enigmatic bodies as being mysterious and alluring. This photo is very attractive and interesting, but it is still hard to completely understand it.

touched the notion of enigmatic bodies???

Nennu and Shunu: Modern China and Asia


right: Photograph by Jean Chung, March 23, 2015.

left: July 20, 2007.

After these past two weeks of class, I have learned so much more about the desired beauty for Asian women in the modern world. My partner and I read the article, “Nennu and Shunu: Gender, Body Politics, and the Beauty Economy in China” by J Yang. This article focused on the concept on Nennu and Shunu. These two words are directly translated as, “tender” and “ripe,” and women are desperate to be characterized in this way.

Overview of Photos: The photos above, show two pieces of plastic surgery advertisements scattered around Asia. The one to the right, is a metro station in Seoul, South Korea, while the other is displayed in China. Both showcase and are trying to promote plastic surgeries to whomever walks by.

Focus of Photos: To the left, we see the Chinese women staring at the advertisement. The pair have completely passed by the unattractive before photo, and have settled their gazes on the newly done women looking back at them. The ad shows a huge transformation being done on this woman, not only relating to her face. After undergoing the surgery she completely changed her lifestyle. The first picture of her makes her look like a sad worker who is struggling to make it by, but in time she changed her appearance, and now she is out of work and driving her new car. Her face has been completely redone, including makeup as well as new features. The pedestrians seem mesmerized by this drastic change. That is one way in which advertisements are gaining the attention they need. Women who see this believe this could be them as well. The ad displayed above is very well done. The drastic changes between the two photos make what they are selling much more desirable.

The image on the right, has been taken in Seoul and shows a scene inside a metro station. The ads are continuously plastered along the wall, desperately looking for someones attention. However, the women leaving the station are not laying an eye on them. The ads brighten the drab stairwell, by adding color and excitement and showcasing the different surgeries one can undergo to become a newer woman. These ads go well with the concept J Yang mentions in her article. Nennu and Shunu is represented here in the everyday life of Asian women. The women in the ads are new, but still have the ripeness (shunu) they also desire to have. But the main desire for older women is to appear as tender (nennu) and are undergoing surgeries to do so.

Conclusion: I believe these two photos do a great job explaining what my article, “Nennu and Shunu: Gender, Body Politics, and the Beauty Economy in China,” was trying to convey. It mentioned the ads and the transformations Asian women are seeking desperately. The perfect medium of Nennu and Shunu is very much desired by all women in the modern world, that this article even correlated with plastic surgeries in the Western World. An example of this is the amount of celebrities in the West who have undergone plastic surgeries to keep the young looks they once had. After reading this article, it could easily be connected to things I know about America and the modern world we live in.

very nice description of the two ads. you could turn the description into analysis if led by the questions of how the ads convey the messages of transforming woman from a shunu to nennu.

The Mao Suit, Women, and the Countryside






“Strive for an abundant harvest, amass grain”, 1973. Artist unknown, photo taken from:

maosuit3“The seeds have been well selected, the harvest is more bountiful every year”, 1964. Artist unknown, photo taken from:

For this weeks Word Press, I decided to focus on women in the Mao suit during Maos reign. These two photos show two different women working in the countryside who look more than happy to be there. During this time Mao was shipping many soldiers in his Red Army out to the countryside, due to their actions destroying urban areas. The Red Guards had become too faithful, resulting in many acts of violence and destruction. Mao began sending his troops to the countryside and encouraging them to learn from peasantry. During these days the Red Army would live and work in the country as Mao ordered. Propaganda posters, like the ones above, encouraged the Red Army to head to the rural areas.

your analysis could start from here:

The two posters above both feature women working in the fields. The background of each shows more workers and the crop to which they are tending. The smile on these two women’s faces look natural and genuine, showcasing a feeling that they must be very happy there. Red can be noticed in both by Maos words printed somewhere on the poster as well as clothing and the slight edge of the little red book found in a pocket. Through these two poster, I hope to communicate that women, during this time, were meant to be seen as equal to the men. They were able to work the fields and participate in the Cultural Revolution, just as much as their male counterparts.

nice statement

The first poster shows a women smiling widely as she holds a barrel of hay, proud to be doing this work. She is dressed in a red suit with her hair tied back. I immediately noticed her broad shoulders and her strength. She has been masculinized by her strength and the work she is doing. She seems very simple. Depicted without makeup and hair pulled back, from the neck up she could easily be mistaken for a man. However, it is her torso and chest that showcase her femininity. The person in this poster is a women for a reason. It is meant to express her support for Mao and what she has learned from peasantry.

denotation 1) the peasant woman as the subject/connotation; 2) the red color/connotation; and 3) the basket on her shoulder/connotation; 4) the background/connotation  

The second poster, depicts a bit of a different woman. Her slender frame easily gives way to her gender. Just as the other poster, she is smiley widely while doing her work, proud to be apart of Mao’s Red Army. The one thing I found most interesting about this poster was the slight peek of the little red book from the pocket of her Mao suit. This one reference can express a lot about this woman. It shows that she is apart of Mao’s Red Army, just like many people of her generation. She keeps the book close to her while she does her work so that she always has his words with her. Both posters depict Mao’s words somewhere on the poster, but the fact that this woman has it on her person, shows her faithfulness to her leader.

Overall, the two poster of women express the work that girls were doing during the Cultural Revolution. They were not simply sitting on the sidelines, but transported to the countryside along with men and boys to learn from the peasants as Mao wanted them to do. The posters show the idea of a genderless society and the equality for women that was uncovered during the Revolution.

try to make the writing more analytical.

Liu Juanhua, Game Series

Qipao 1Qipao 2

Liu Jianhua, Game Series, ceramic series, 61 x 61 cm. (24 x 24 in.), 2000.

During our study of the qipao in class, I saw the dress as a symbol of strong, independent women. Chinese women were able to wear a dress much more revealing, beautiful, and modern compared to their fashion styles before. However, as we closed our study on the topic, it seemed that these dresses were also desired by males for women to wear. Lui Jianhua, in 2000, came out with a series of ceramic plates pictured above. These plates are intricate pieces of art, but relay a sexualized message of Chinese women.

clarify “sexualized message”

On the plate lays a women, without arms or legs. In both she is surrounded by numbers of color and intricate beauty. On both plates the women is wearing a qipao. One matches the flowers laying below her, while the other stands out due to its metallic gold. Both have the same border which, in different colors, making it obvious that they are apart of the same collection. These pieces have very similar attributes, but its their message that is much more important. Lui Jianhua is sexualizing all Chinese women in the qipao by the underlying message he presents in his collection.

The women laying on the plate serves as a metaphor of women being served to anyone. It suggests that the these women are worthless and are meant to be served to males. The fact that they are without arms and a head supports the claim that they are sexualized figures. Jianhua is suggesting that it doesn’t matter what these women’s faces looks like, just that they are a body to be used. He also makes them seem helpless by leaving them armless. The color surrounding them guides the eyes of an observer to the bodies. The two women are laying in very different positions. The one on the left is without a shoe and is very suggestive in what would come next. However the women to the right is much more sexualized. She is wearing a metallic, glowing, gold dress with her legs spread open. There is nothing surrounding her, like in the other photo, it is just this woman laying on the plate ready to be served to a man.

The artistry in this collection is done very well, even though the message Jianhua is portraying is not a desired one. The qipao is very realistic. He obviously shows it is a qipao styled dress and does beautiful and realistic work with the folds of their dresses. Although both dresses are qipao the differences are definitely noticeable. The floral qipao is much shorter and with the flowers surrounding her makes her appear much more innocent. The metallic gold qipao is longer and deems the woman to be sophisticated.

From these images, I learned that although the qipao is a beautiful dress and much different from the fashions before, it has been sexualized through art such as these. It makes me question what women are wearing this dress and if they felt differently after this series came out. Overall, Jianhua raised many issues in his art and had me question the really beauty behind the qipao.

suggestions: first clarify the sexualized message, then explain how the artwork sexualize the female body in terms of qipao form, body position, color, and plate with focus on one component at a time

John Thomson Photography

John Thomson Photograph


Source: Thomson, John: “Women with Bound Feet,” 4,700 × 3,492 pixels (unable to find year).

The image I chose, titled, “Women with Bound Feet,” depicts a woman exposing her bound feet. The photographer, John Thomson, famous for photographing everyday life, compares the feet with a regular unbound foot. The woman pictured is surrounded by nothing. She is wearing simple clothes, little jewelry, and exhibits an expressionless face in this photograph. She seems ordinary which leads me to believe she was a prostitute who was paid by Thomson to pose and expose her destroyed feet to the world. This image is unveiling the horrible act of foot binding and showing the world that it may not be something that should be desired by all.

What is photographer’s purpose of taking this photo and make an argument about that

The image above seems bland. It is simple, and through its simplicity uncovers many pieces behind this particular photo. At first glance, the bound feet are not the first thing that catches an observers attention. The expression on the woman’s face is the first thing that would catch someones eye.The woman in the picture seems unamused. Her expression makes me feel as though she has seen hard times. She does not seem regal or confident but shows an expression of defeat. The cloth she is wrapping around herself is a glimpse into the idea that she could be a poor woman. Dorothy Ko, mentioned that Thomson would pay lower class women to expose their bound feet for a few cents (purpose of doing so?). To have a natural foot displayed next to the bound one dramatically shows the difference. It shows what this woman’s foot could have been. It is important to note, that the natural foot is standing alone. There is no face attached to it. This choice, by Thomson, helps focus all attention on the unveiled feet. Dorothy Ko explains that many saw the uncovering as laughable in her essay, “A Bondage in Time.” This claim is proven in the photo which lacks the beauty and mystery that foot binding once had. Once uncovered, the practice is seen as grotesque and undesired. The secrecy once associated with foot binding is lost and its once unveiled slowly loses its popularity.

– Maggie Small