Hongli is a Chinese sexologist who meets women of all ages at her practice in Beijing. Although the stories are wide-ranging, all her clients are struggling with the expectations of society. Thirty-two-year-old Wen-wen, for example, is an attractive and successful single woman, but she is viewed as a “leftover”: if a woman hasn’t found a man by her 30th birthday, she has missed the proverbial boat.
Her parents are deeply ashamed. What did they do wrong? Beijing may look modern, but the traditional mores affecting women of all ages and classes are very old-fashioned. In Fallen Flowers Thick Leaves, women talk candidly about being married to a man they don’t love, about being lesbian and finding acceptance, about cautious feminism, and about those who – in utter desperation and shame at their failed love life – decide to become nuns. To what extent do ancient traditions, the Cultural Revolution and the modern economy affect the social status of modern Chinese women?