Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chinese Bound Feet

How it worked

The foot binding process was started before the arch of the foot had a chance to develop fully, usually between the ages of 2 and 5. Binding usually started during the winter months since the feet were more likely to be numb, and therefore the pain would not be as extreme.


It is estimated that between a billion and four billion women in China had bound feet between the 10th and 20th centuries. This process of crippling and deforming the foot to fit in ridiculously small shoes was considered a mark of status and such tiny feet were considered sexually alluring. Even when the practice was outlawed in 1912, this painful procedure was still practiced on young girls by mothers who feared their daughters would not marry well otherwise.


Pretty but painful: A pair of lavishly embroidered "lotus shoes" from Dr Ko's collection. The painful custom became so widespread in ancient China that without bound feet, a woman could not marry and the richer a woman was, the smaller her feet were bound.

Shoe Example

Century old lotus feet shoes for women with bound feet. Shoes placed next to a 4 year old child's ballet flats.

Picture Exaple

A large proportion of Chinese women in the late nineteenth century had their feet bound small while they were children.

Bound Feet X-ray

X-ray of bound feet. A Chinese procedure still done on girls up to the mid-20th century.

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