The Asian ‘Madame’ Figure

Angela Baby – Portrayal of a classic Asian beauty


Not long ago, I was introduced to the book ‘Reinventing Your Life’ by Jeffrey E. Young. The book introduces Schema therapy that is used to help patients overcome life traps (i.e. debilitating thought patterns that affect one’s life choices).

Today, I would like to delve a little deeper into the vulnerability life trap.

The Asian ‘Madame’ figure

The Asian Madame figure— a beautiful, innocent and vulnerable little thing that requires constant care and tenderness. It is the archetypal perfect woman that dominated Asian screens and love novels throughout the mid to end of the 20th century.

I am not particularly sure where this embodiment of womanhood originated but I suppose it grew out of the womb of classic Chinese literature like “Dream of the Red Chamber” (written in the mid of the18th century).

In the novel, the female protagonist (i.e. Lin Dai Yu) was a great beauty, accomplished musician and suffered from ailing health and emotional frailty.

From a certain poignant point of view (with clear notes of sadism), one could say that her vulnerability enhanced her beauty. The ever looming horizon of her death brought a sense of urgency and bittersweetness to her love story.

Asian daughter parenting

Now, let us begin to discuss the dark side of such vulnerable ‘constructions’ of womanhood. Avid consumers of romanticised notions of womanhood tend to subconsciously (or consciously) project vulnerable qualities onto their daughters and cause them to develop the vulnerability life trap.

This is especially true if the daughter in the family is the only female offspring or the most beautiful amongst many sisters. Asian parents tend to become over protective of these daughters and remind them continuously to be on a look out for men (and even women) who could mean them harm.

In my opinion, this is a particularly harmful manner of parenting. It drains fortitude out of your child and imbues her with a sense of victimhood.

I am of the opinion that when God created women, he did not create us to be Lin Dai Yu. He created us to be like St. Joan of Arc, Hua Mu Lan or even Arwen (from Lord of the Rings) — Strong and brave, and capable of providing real aid to man.

Seeing the world through the eyes of a victim

In recent years, I have dealt with a couple of ladies with the vulnerability life trap. To be honest, it is not easy.

These ladies tend to take every opportunity to reveal small nuggets of weakness (e.g. physical frailty, thinness, emotional weakness). They are always ready to flock under the arms of a strong figure for protection.

On good days, I will be that strong pair of arms. On bad days, they will seek out others to protect themselves from me.

The vulnerability life trap is a very debilitating thought pattern because it causes one to view the world through the eyes of a victim. One is always on the look out for evidence of potential intent of abuse. When one finds marginal evidence, one withdraws instinctively from the relationship. In the long run, this is the recipe for a sad and insular life.

In truth, all human beings are capable of loving AND hurting others. Should we distance ourselves from everyone and live as hermits? Definitely not.

We should instead acknowledge that every relationship is joyful and painful in its own season and embrace the pain as the price to pay for living in a community.

The ultimate irony of the vulnerability life trap? — If you let this life trap run amok, you will eventually discover that you are your greatest enemy.


In conclusion, if you suspect that you have a vulnerability complex, please take this opportunity to overcome your vulnerability life trap.

I recommend that you grab a copy of ‘reinventing your life’ by Jeffrey E. Young for more details.

Have a blessed day ahead!




Counsellor, Writer (Christianity, Children’s short stories)

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Denise Thong

Denise Thong

Counsellor, Writer (Christianity, Children’s short stories)

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