Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Outlawed Traditions: Chinese Feet Binding

When I hear about stuff like this I find one more reason to be thankful I was born in the 20th century. I’m not sure I would’ve survived otherwise.

The time is the 10th century, a beautiful baby girl is born to a Chinese family. All is well until she becomes a toddler…

To increase her chances at finding a decent husband or marrying into money, her feet have to be tiny and look a certain way. It was something women, their husbands and families took great pride in; the ideal size being around 2.75 inches. Yes, you heard right!

To achieve this, her feet are soaked in a warm mixture of animal blood and herbs. Afterwards her toenails are clipped and every toe is broken except for the big one. The broken toes are then folded under the sole of her foot while the arch is forcibly broken.

After years of continuous binding, her feet end up looking like this: 

If they get it right, her feet will fit into shoes about this size:

And here’s how she’ll look walking:

Which begs the question, why oh why…

Well, apart from the reasons outlined above, the smaller the feet, the greater the chances of living a life of luxury and wealth. It was also very erotic in Chinese culture for female feet to look that way; Qing Dynasty sex manuals described 48 different ways women's feet could be bound.

I imagine the pain those poor little girls had to endure having to walk on broken toes and I look at my size 42 feet and wince.

Thankfully, the practice was outlawed 1912, although strict enforcement was weak until around 1942.

Naomi Lucas

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