Reading guide for The Bathing Women by Tie Ning

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Bathing Women

A Novel

by Tie Ning

The Bathing Women
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 368 pages
    Oct 2014, 368 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The Bathing Women opens with Tiao contemplating the strange intersection of modern technology and old ways, as embodied by a girl on a bike. How is this intersection shown throughout the novel? How do the different characters handle the sweeping changes in China?

  2. Despite moving to the countryside at a very young age, Tiao always considers herself a Beijinger. What does it mean to her to be from the city?

  3. There are three major incidents in Tiao's life: the public shaming of Teacher Tang; the discovery of her mother's infidelity; and Quan's death. How do each of these moments change and define her? How well does she deal with them?

  4. Discuss Tiao, Fan, and Fei's complicity in Quan's death. Is their guilt warranted?

  5. Despite Wu's infidelity and Quan's death, Wu and Yixun stay married. What keeps them together, despite their troubles?

  6. Guilt is a major force in the characters' relationships with each other. Are any of the relationships portrayed free from guilt? What other factors are at play in the characters' lives?

  7. The attitude toward abortion portrayed in The Bathing Women is very matter-of-fact. With the procedure so readily available, why did Fei choose to keep hers a secret?

  8. Tiao asks Fei to help her get a job at the publishing house, knowing fully well what Fei would have to do. Can you imagine doing the same thing in either woman's shoes? How do the women perceive their sexual relationships, romantic and otherwise?

  9. Fan sets her sights on the West from a young age and ends up living abroad and marrying—albeit unhappily—an American man. She is dissatisfied, however, torn between a feeling of superiority and nostalgia for her family and home country. Will her new relationship with Mike, the interpreter, change anything for her?

  10. Chen Zai's first wife, Mei, seeks out Tiao several times. Are her intentions as innocent as she says they are, or is she manipulating Tiao in hopes of preventing the marriage?

  11. Tiao, Fan, Youyou, and Fei all follow different paths as adults. Do any of them achieve their childhood goals? Which woman do you consider the most successful?

  12. Which of the women do you sympathize with the most? Which the least?

  13. How is Chinese storytelling different from American? Did you notice differences in the style of the narrative? How does The Bathing Women compare to other family dramas you've read in structure and style?

  14. Author Tie Ning is the first woman and youngest writer to become the president of the Chinese Writers Association and several of her other stories and novels have feminist themes. Would you consider The Bathing Women a feminist novel? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club

  1. Research The Quotations of Mao Zedong online. Bring a few with you to your book club meeting and discuss how it impacts your understanding of the characters and their motivations.

  2. Youyou, Fei, and Tiao first come together over food—specifically recipes from old issues of Soviet Woman. The recipes are featured in the book, including Grilled Miniature Snow Balls (pg. 99 - 100), Armenian Grilled Pork Patties (pg. 101), and appetizers like the Little Basket (pg. 104). Make one of the recipes to share at your next book club meeting.

  3. Labor camps—like the one Wu and Yixun are sent to—are used for reeducation and imprisonment in China to this day, but are a taboo subject. Learn more about labor camps by watching the acclaimed film, The Ditch (2010), with your book club.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Scribner. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Tie Ning

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Cruel Beautiful World
    by Caroline Leavitt

    A fast moving page-turner about the naiveté of youth and the malignity of power.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.