posted by: shoesense in General on July 6th, 2007
You have undoubtedly heard about the famous ‘Lotus’ shoes, a Chinese tradition started in the 7th century that required women to bind their feet in order to achieve the coveted proportion of the ‘golden lily,’ deemed socially, aesthetically, and erotically desirable. Ever wondered how they could fit into a shoe that’s barely bigger than a pack of cigarettes–about 4-inches long? (For good measure: a size-5 shoe is about 8.69 inches, a size 10 shoe about 10.5 inches long.)
So how did this (admittedly petite) woman
… fit into what amounts to toddler shoes?
The grisly truth below the fold (Warning: These are rather graphic pictures and may cause distress, horror, and loss of appetite. Click at your own risk!)
The age when little girls started having their feet bound was between 5 and 7, when her prepubescent bones were still flexible. Chinese women described the experience as ‘burning, throbbing feet swallowing the body in fire–from severe traumas that created months, even years. of oozing sores, bandages stiff with dried pus adn blood, and sloughed-off gobs of flesh.’ They lost their appetites and sleep, running away , hiding, attempting to loosen their bandages, and enduring beatings while trying to comply with their mother’s demands. The bones broke and toes grew painfully inward, and the extended periods during which the feet were basically an open wound caused a high stink. By the age of 14 or so, when the body had more or less finished growing, the severe bouts with pain would subside and a girl could start bandaging her feet on her own without help from her mother. From then on she could concentrate on maintaining and refining the shape of her feet.
One of the most interesting articles I’ve read on the topic (and where I got most of the info above) is by C. Fred Blake, ‘Foot-Binding in Neo-Confucian China and the Appropriation of Female Labor’ (first published in Signs 19 (1994), 1-25, 93-5). I warmly recommend it.
Interestingly, in traditional Chinese culture, two types of women had natural-sized feet: uncivilized, clumsy, and crude women, and extraordinarily powerful women, like legendary female warriors, goddesses, and Guan Yin, the Buddhist redeemer of humanity (from Answers.com).