Chinese Foot Binding
The foot binding practice of ancient China
This is a pair of antique Chinese bound feet lotus slippers which were fashionable when the old tradition of foot binding was in style in China. The practice lasted more than a thousand years. Young girls' feet were bound with long strips of cloth to keep them from growing and the toes were broken and bent towards the soles of the feet. The ultimate goal was to achieve the "golden lotus", a 3-inch long feet, arched and pointy resembling the lotus buds. Few women achieved this ideal. It was the standard of feminine beauty, eroticism, social status and a passport to marrying into wealth.
The origin of Chinese foot binding
Bound feet emulate the lotus buds
There is a lot of controversy as to the true origin of the practice of footbinding. It lasted more a thousand years spanning Five Dynasties. Rumors has it that the last emperor of the South Tang Dynasty, Li Yu, ordered his favorite consort, Yao-niang to dance in front of him atop a golden lotus pedestal that was specially built. She wrapped her feet in long strips of silk cloth not unlike the ballerinas in toe shoes today. The emperor was smitten by his concubine's bound feet beyond his wildest imagination. Immediately, the practice of footbinding became a symbol of feminine beauty, royal approval, social status and spread to all levels of society.
Suffering for beauty
The sight of the deformed bound feet may be too unpleasant to those unfamiliar with this thousand-year-old practice. The graphic pictures are shown in the link list below.
Details and pictures of foot binding - China's curious and mysterious past
These links are a must read for those not familiar with the ancient practice of foot binding. These contain details and graphic pictures of the bound feet and are a treasure trove of information on the seemingly barbaric practice that lasted more than a millennium. The practice of footbinding has not been completed obliterated and is still being secretly practised by women in some parts of Asia. Lotus slippers can still be seen being peddled by street vendors for aging bound feet women or for tourists in parts of Asia.
- The Bygone Practice of Foot Binding in China
The ancient practice of foot binding in China was to gain social status and wealth. Young girls will have less chance of marrying into the aristocracy if they do not have the tiny feet and not deemed attractive. This website has great pictures and i
- Suffering for Beauty – Graphic Photos of Chinese Footbinding
Learn about the barbaric practice of foot binding in ancient China and view a full set of photos of a woman with bound feet in Yunnan Province.
- Painful Memories for China's Footbinding Survivors : NPR
Millions of Chinese women bound their feet, a status symbol that allowed them to marry into money. Footbinding was banned in 1912, but some women continued to do it in secret. Some of the last survivors are still living in a village in Southern China
- FOOTBINDING: A Painful Tradition
By Sherie Lynn CharInstructor: Kristy Wilson Bowers, History 151 FOOTBINDING: A Painful Tradition The Chinese tradition of footbinding may seem like a peculiar practice to people who are unfamiliar with the custom. However, according to Cecil Adams,
Old Chinese Saying:
"There are a thousand buckets of tears to one who binds her feet."
Why I bought the lotus slippers
A reminder of my childhood past
I have seen bound feet firsthand when I was a young child. My cousin's grandmother had tiny bound feet and as inquisitive kids, we never dared ask why her feet were kid-size. We always knew she was up and about from the sound of the lotus slippers dragging across the wood floor upstairs. When she took her afternoon naps, we would "borrow" her ornately beaded and embroidered lotus slippers and wear them while playing grownups.
My young cousin used to tell me that women have bound feet in China so that they would not run away and only the aristocrats have small feet. I never quite understood then why there was a reason for my cousin's grandmother to run away.
It was only after I acquired the pair of lotus slippers a few years ago did my interest in the practice of foot binding in ancient China become rekindled.
Anatomy of bound feet lotus slippers - Where size does matter
These are pictures of a genuine pair of lotus slippers I was fortunate enough to purchase in a jade market in Hongkong many years ago. These were hand-embroidered on cotton usually made in the home of the young girl who would wear them or by the wearer herself. Great care was made to sew and embroider the tiny shoes as these were considered part of the female's intimate apparel. The color of the shoe, style, and lavishness of the embroidery played an important role in attracting attention and showing social status
Arched beauty - Lotus shoes were made to accommodate tiny arched feet
This pair of lotus slippers barely measures 4 inches long. The ideal size of a well-bound foot foot was 3 inches and should be shaped like the bud of a lotus flower, full and round at the heel and coming to a thin point at the front. In order to achieve this length, the arch of the foot must be broken and all the toes, except the big toe, must be permanently bent toward the sole of the foot. The tiny pointed foot can now slide easily into the lotus bud-shaped slippers. The smaller the shoes, the more desirable, sexier and marriageable the young girls would be to prospective husbands.
How small is small?
The ideal size was a 3-inch bound foot ('Golden Lotus'), and no longer than 4 in. (10 cm), called 'Silver Lotus'. The bound feet would bend, becoming so concave they were sometimes described as "lotus hooks." When the women tottered on their lotus slippers or shoes, they would sashay their hips in a seemingly provocative manner which was known as the "Lotus gait." This walk was considered particularly alluring.
The perfect lotus feet - Doing a balancing act
These amazingly tiny bound feet wearing fashionable lotus slippers could easily fit into a tea cup. This photo gives a good perspective of what years of foot binding can do to one's feet for the sake of men folks, fashion, and the demands of society.
There is more to foot binding than meets the eye
Sexual revolution in China
Tiny bound feet were a sign of refinement and beauty which enhanced the prospect of marrying into wealth. Foot binding restricted a woman's movements, hence making her hips larger and the body seemingly more voluptuous. It was also a way of deterring the women from straying and running away from beatings and encouraged fidelity and chastity. Bound feet was the ultimate symbol of female submission and male dominance in China.
The bound feet was deemed the most intimate and erotic part of the female anatomy. It is not surprising that wives, consorts, prostitutes, paramours were selected solely on the size and shape of their bound feet tucked into these tiny embroidered shoes. The unbound feet were rarely seen without the lotus slippers which all the more created a sensual mystique around them. Poets wrote about the delights of the "lotus feet" and ancient sex manuals outlined and illustrated the many ways these can be enjoyed and caressed.
A woman with bound feet was also forced to walk on her heels to spare pain inflicted on the bent toes. Walking this way strengthened the muscles of the female organ and the nerves in her feet became more concentrated and sensitive making her bound feet a major errogenous zone. It is no wonder that the tiny bound feet appealed to a man's libido and was an erotic obsession.
Poor women did not have their feet bound
Needed to toil in the fields
The Han Chinese girls, from the wealthiest to the poorest had their feet bound. But it was less prevalent among the poor women who had to toil in the fields. The Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and the Manchus did not practice foot binding. The Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty tried to abolish the practice of foot binding but without success because the practice was already too firmly rooted in the custom to break. The practice of foot binding continued into the 20th century until anti-foot binding reforms were called by Chinese and western missionaries. Finally in 1911, with the revolution of Sun Yat-Sen, foot binding was officially outlawed, but the practice continued on in many areas. It was effectively abolished after the Communist Party banned it in 1949.
The social pressure created by foot binding
Women with large, normal feet were considered uncouth, unrefined and only belonged to the lower class or "unwashed masses." This was why some members of the lower echelons of society practised foot binding in secret.
Which shoes would I rather wear? - A study in contrast
This photo shows the difference between a 4 inch pair of lotus slippers and my size 7 1/2 hybrid tennis high heel shoe. Which one would I rather wear? Inasmuch as my normal shoes were called "weird or unattractive" by someone, I would choose them over the lotus slippers.
Interesting facts about foot binding in China woven into a tapestry of drama and intrigue - Educational and fun to read
Lotus feet immortalized in art - Exquisite handiwork
This regal and elegant doll with its bound feet and tiny lotus shoes seemingly reminded me of a Chinese Barbie Doll. Tiny bound feet with lotus slippers were the fashion and rage in Ancient China for over a thousand years. It was a passport to marrying well.
Read about China's curious practice of foot binding - A comprehensive book on the subject
The spectacular photos will keep you mesmerized for hours.
Your opinion counts so do take this quick poll.
What do you think was the motivation for the practice of foot binding in China?
The price of being beautiful
In every culture, women are willing to suffer for the price of being beautiful. In the western world, this includes wearing stilleto heels which could throw off the back, tight corsets to whittle down the waistlines, liposuction to remove fat overnight, tattoos to make a statement, plastic surgery to improve or change one's appearance.
Small feet is to the East as a small waist is to the West
The use of corset as an undergarment to slim the figure have been around since the 16th century. It was used by men and women for aesthetic and also for medical reasons. Later more of the wearers were women and the style of the corset changed through the Victorian, Edwardian eras until after the World Wars. The corset have enjoyed a revival in the 20th century as top garments aside from undergarments and as fetish fashion and bondage corset.
These were corsets used in the 1890's to change the contour of a woman's body instantly so she can achieve an hourglass figure, with the tiniest possible waistline. The corset was worn as an undergarment for 18 hours a day, 365 days a year for training as it took practice to sit up straight without leaning back in a relaxed manner. Bending forward was almost impossible to do as the boning in the corset structure stiffens the woman's torso. Why do you think the gentlemen were there to pick up those dropped hankerchieves?
The corset reduced the waist considerably and exaggerated the bust and the hips. This was often referred to as the hourglass figure. In spite of the constricting effect of the undergarment which made it hard to breathe, these women seemed to be happy with the resulting effects of sporting tiny cinched waists. The men folk were twice as contented.
Lovely hourglass figure - Bound and determined
Dresses were tailor-made to the compressed shape of the woman's torso with the corsets worn as an undergarment and not based on the woman's actual body measurements. Wearing the tight-lace corset everyday not only changed the posture but the way a woman carried herself when she walked. After a year or so of being encased in this tight contraption, suffering for beauty becomes worthwhile.
Guinness World Records
See the smallest waist on a living person
A nicely done video about the price women pay for beauty - How far would you go for beauty?
This is your chance to make your opinion count. - Let's duke it out.
Body modifications have been pervasive in many cultures. In China, the practice of foot binding lasted over a thousand years for beauty and eroticism. In Europe and America, the practice of wearing tight-laced corsets to achieve a tiny wasp-like waist was for the same reasons.
Do you believe foot binding was barbaric and the other forms of body modications are not? Like, breast implants, tattoos, lipo-suction, body piercing..
Fascinating lotus shoes collectibles - Own a piece of history
These tiny bound feet shoes were the rage in ancient China and ensured a woman's eligibility for marriage. The bound feet was deemed erotic and attractive and was widely practised which lasted for over a thousand years.