Sewing on quilt binding. Patricia Ebrey, "Gender and Sinology: Shifting Western Interpretations of Footbinding, 1300–1890", "Painful Memories for China's Footbinding Survivors", "Marriage Mobility and Footbinding in Pre-1949 Rural China: A Reconsideration of Gender, Economics, and Meaning in Social Causation", "China's "Golden Lotus Feet" - Foot-binding Practice", "Feet and Fabrication: Footbinding and Early Twentieth-Century Rural Women's Labor in Shaanxi", "Bound by History: The Last of China's 'Lotus-Feet' Ladies", "Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account", "The Tian Zu Hui (Natural Foot Society): Christian Women in China and the Fight against Footbinding", "1907: Qiu Jin, Chinese feminist and revolutionary", "The Art of Social Change: Campaigns against foot-binding and genital mutilation", Bodies under Siege: Self-mutilation, Nonsuicidal Self-injury, and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry, "In China, foot binding slowly slips into history", "Unbound: China's last 'lotus feet' – in pictures", "Traveling Across China to Tell the Story of a Generation of Women With Bound Feet", "Footloose in Fujian: Economic Correlates of Footbinding", "Consequences of foot binding among older women in Beijing, China", "Asian Origins of Cinderella: The Zhuang Storyteller of Guangxi", "Sociocultural Epistasis and Cultural Exaptation in Footbinding, Marriage Form, and Religious Practices in Early 20th-Century Taiwan", "Why Chinese Neo-Confucian Women Made a Fetish of Small Feet", "Foot-Binding in Neo-Confucian China and the Appropriation of Female Labor", "The Body as Attire: The Shifting Meanings of Footbinding in Seventeenth-Century China", "Revisiting Footbinding: The Evolution of the Body as Method in Modern Chinese History", "Children's Book Review: Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioka",, Short description is different from Wikidata, Articles containing Chinese-language text, Articles containing potentially dated statements from 2007, All articles containing potentially dated statements, All articles with specifically marked weasel-worded phrases, Articles with specifically marked weasel-worded phrases from November 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Berger, Elizabeth, Liping Yang, and Wa Ye. [46] Local warlords such as Yan Xishan in Shanxi engaged in their own sustained campaign against foot binding with feet inspectors and fines for those who continued with the practice,[45] while regional governments of the later Nanjing regime also enforced the ban. It was considered preferable to have someone other than the mother do it, as she might have been sympathetic to her daughter's pain and less willing to keep the bindings tight.[69]. The prevalence and practice of foot binding varied in different parts of the country, with the feet of young women bound to raise their marriage prospects in some areas. Mei Ching Liu, "Women and the Media in China: An Historical Perspective". [44], In 1912, the new Republic of China government banned foot binding, though the ban was not actively implemented,[45] and leading intellectuals of the May Fourth Movement saw foot binding as a major symbol of China's backwardness. Foot binding is believed to be spread from elite women to civilian women, and there are large differences in each region. The practice foot binding in ancient China reflects the unique aesthetic standards and patriarchal social structures. [53][54] By the 21st century, only a few elderly women in China still had bound feet. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! [19] However, few Han Chinese complied with the edicts and Kangxi eventually abandoned the effort in 1668. She argued that women, by retaining their small bound feet, made themselves subservient as it would mean women imprisoning themselves indoors. These "flower bowl" (花盆鞋) or "horse-hoof" shoes (馬蹄鞋) have a platform generally made of wood two to six inches in height and fitted to the middle of the sole, or they have a small central tapered pedestal. The binding of feet, if done properly, was started when the girl was five or six years old. [37], Reform-minded Chinese intellectuals began to consider footbinding to be an aspect of their culture that needed to be eliminated. Foot binding was practiced by the Hui Muslims in Gansu Province,[66] the Dungan Muslims, descendants of Hui from northwestern China who fled to central Asia, were also seen practicing foot binding up to 1948. [69] Walking on bound feet necessitated bending the knees slightly and swaying to maintain proper movement and balance, a dainty walk that was also considered to be erotically attractive to some men. However, as the girl grew older, the bones would begin to heal. [67] In southern China, in Guangzhou, 19th century Scottish scholar James Legge noted a mosque that had a placard denouncing foot binding, saying Islam did not allow it since it constituted violating the creation of God. Each time the feet were unbound, they were washed, the toes carefully checked for injury, and the nails carefully and meticulously trimmed. [82] Howard Levy however suggests that the barely revealed bound foot may also only function as an initial tease. [35] The society asked members to promise not to bind their daughters' feet or let their sons marry a woman who bound their feet. One of these involves the story of Pan Yunu, a favourite consort of the Southern Qi Emperor Xiao Baojuan. 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. Disease inevitably followed infection, meaning that death from septic shock could result from foot-binding, and a surviving girl was more at risk for medical problems as she grew older. [105][42] The ending of the practice is seen as a significant event in the process of female emancipation in China. [63], Manchu women, as well as Mongol and Chinese women in the Eight Banners, did not bind their feet, and the most a Manchu woman might do was to wrap the feet tightly to give them a slender appearance. Women with the ideal foot size were very desirable for marriage. In … In the late 20th century some feminists[who?] The tightness of the binding meant that the circulation in the feet was faulty, and the circulation to the toes was almost cut off, so any injuries to the toes were unlikely to heal and were likely to gradually worsen and lead to infected toes and rotting flesh. [87] It was claimed by Lin Yutang among others, probably based on an oral tradition, that Zhu Xi also promoted footbinding in Fujian as a way of encouraging chastity among women, that by restricting their movement it would help keep men and women separate. Having bound feet shifted the burden of weight to the lower body which put pressure on the pelvis and led to pelvic pain. [86] However, historian Patricia Ebrey suggests that this story might be fictitious,[88] and argued that the practice arose so as to emphasize the gender distinction during a period of societal change in the Song dynasty. [108][109] Foot binding were common when women could do light industry, but where women were required to do heavy farm work they often did not bind their feet because it hindered physical work. [112], Former Chinese custom of breaking and binding the feet of young girls, A Chinese woman showing her foot, image by. [103] Thus, the practice ensured that women were much more reliant on their husbands. my global studies class project. Various myths and folktales relate to the origin of foot-binding in China. Mothers, grandmothers, or older female relatives first bound the girl’s feet. [94], Historian Dorothy Ko proposed that footbinding may be an expression of the Confucian ideals of civility and culture in the form of correct attire or bodily adornment, and that footbinding was seen as a necessary part of being feminine as well as being civilized. Over the centuries foot binding was practiced by many elite families and later became widespread among all social levels. These scholars argued that the coming of the mechanized industry at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, such as the introduction of industrial textile processes, resulted in a loss of light handwork for women, removing a reason to maintain the practice. The feet were also soaked in a concoction that caused any necrotic flesh to fall off. [33] Reformers such as Liang Qichao, influenced by Social Darwinism, also argued that it weakened the nation, since enfeebled women supposedly produced weak sons. [38] In 1883, Kang Youwei founded the Anti-Footbinding Society near Canton to combat the practice, and anti-footbinding societies sprang up across the country, with membership for the movement claimed to reach 300,000. [5], Some of the earliest possible references to foot binding appear around 1100, when a couple of poems seemed to allude to the practice. In one version, the practice goes back to the earliest documented dynasty, the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BCE–1046 BCE). Even if mothers could have objected to putting their daughters through such a tremendously painful process, social pressure likely made them willing practitioners of foot binding. ", Brown, Melissa J., and Damian Satterthwaite-Phillips. (Diss. [4] The binding of feet was then replicated by other upper-class women, and the practice spread. It was normal for centuries, until being finally outlawed in 1911. Legend says that foot binding began in Shang times. introduced positive overtones, arguing that it gave women a sense of mastery over their bodies, and pride in their beauty. [79] Therefore, people had greater expectations for foot-binding brides. This practice was called "toast to the golden lotus" and lasted until the late Qing dynasty. For most the bound feet eventually became numb. [58] They argued that foot binding was an instrumental means to reserve women to handwork, and can be seen as a way by mothers to tie their daughters down, train them in handwork and keep them close at hand. It started with the wealthy, but quickly spread to lower social classes as well. By the Ming period, the practice was no longer the preserve of the gentry, and had instead become considered a status symbol. [58][108], It has been argued that while the practice started out as a fashion, it persisted because it became an expression of Han identity after the Mongols invaded China in 1279, and later the Manchus' conquest in 1644, as it was then practiced only by Han women. According to Ko, the perception of footbinding as a civilised practice may be evinced from a Ming dynasty account that mentioned a proposal to "entice [the barbarians] to civilize their customs" by encouraging footbinding among their womenfolk. ", Hughes, Roxane. [65] Most non-Han Chinese people, such as the Manchus, Mongols and Tibetans, did not bind their feet; however, some non-Han ethnic groups did. And thus foot binding became a symbol of chastity and eroticism. [28] It is thought that the necessity for women labour in the fields due to a longer crop-growing season in the South and the impracticability of bound feet working in wet rice fields limited the spread of the practice in the countryside of the South. Sometimes, for this reason, the girl's toenails would be peeled back and removed altogether. Many Han Chinese in the Inner City of Beijing also did not bind their feet, and it was reported in the mid-1800s that around 50-60% of non-banner women had unbound feet. It has been estimated that by the 19th century, 40–50% of all Chinese women may have had bound feet, rising to almost 100% in upper-class Chinese women.[1]. This story may have given rise to the terms "golden lotus" or "lotus feet" used to describe bound feet; there is, however, no evidence that Consort Pan ever bound her feet. Foot binding has caused a lot of deaths. [81], Some also considered bound feet to be intensely erotic, and Qing Dynasty sex manuals listed 48 different ways of playing with women's bound feet. [25][26] This pride was reflected in the elegantly embroidered silk slippers and wrappings girls and women wore to cover their feet; these shoes also served as support, as some women with bound feet might not have been able to walk without the support of their shoes, and thus would have been severely limited in their mobility. [6][7][8][9] Soon after 1148,[9] in the earliest extant discourse on the practice of foot binding, scholar Zhang Bangji [zh] wrote that a bound foot should be arch shaped and small. She believed that women should emancipate themselves from oppression, that girls can ensure their independence through education, and that they should develop new mental and physical qualities fitting for the new era. (歩歩生蓮), a reference to the Buddhist legend of Padmavati, under whose feet lotus springs forth. [96][97] Anthropologist Fred Blake argued that the practice of footbinding was a form of discipline undertaken by women themselves, and perpetuated by women on their daughters, so as to inform their daughters of their role and position in society, and to support and participate in the neo-Confucian way of being civilized.[94]. Easy fix. The desirability varies with the size of the feet – the perfect bound feet and the most desirable (called "golden lotuses") would be around 3 Chinese inches (around 4 inches (10 cm) in Western measurement) or smaller, while those larger may be called "silver lotuses" (4 Chinese inches) or "iron lotuses" (5 Chinese inches or larger and the least desirable for marriage). [75], Before footbinding was practiced in China, admiration for small feet already existed as demonstrated by the Tang dynasty tale of Ye Xian written around 850 by Duan Chengshi. This tale of a girl who lost her shoe and then married a king who sought the owner of the shoe as only her foot was small enough to fit the shoe contains elements of the European story of Cinderella, and is thought to be one of its antecedents. Footbinding was first banned in 1912, but some continued binding their feet in secret. Other stories say foot binding began during Tang times. The bindings were pulled even tighter each time the girl's feet were rebound. Despite foot binding no longer being practiced, a number of Chinese women who had their feet bound are still alive, though As of 2007[update], this number had dwindled to only a small handful of elderly Chinese women. [51][52] In most parts of China, however, the practice had virtually disappeared by 1949. Foot binding – a widespread custom in China that lasted for more than a 1,000 years – involved incredibly tight cloth bindings being applied to the feet of young girls to stifle growth. [16], The first European to mention footbinding was the Italian missionary Odoric of Pordenone in the 14th century, during the Yuan dynasty. Feet altered by foot binding were known as lotus feet, and the shoes made for these feet were known as lotus shoes. [19][20][21] As foot binding restricted the movement of a woman, one side effect of its rising popularity was the corresponding decline of the art of women's dance in China, and it became increasingly rare to hear about beauties and courtesans who were also great dancers after the Song era.[22][23]. Foot-binding, due to its crippling effects, caused women to walk in shorter, more controlled steps. I do not know what use this is. [29] In other areas, women in their 70s and 80s could be found providing limited assistance to the workers in the rice fields well into the 21st century. [50] The practice lingered on in some regions in China; in 1928, a census in rural Shanxi found that 18% of women had bound feet,[29] while in some remote rural areas such as Yunnan Province it continued to be practiced until the 1950s. Summer Reading Challenge 2020 is Finished! The foot binding process was long, excruciatingly painful and pretty gross. Sadly, it’s estimated that up to 10 percent of girls died in the process of foot binding. [34], If the infection in the feet and toes entered the bones, it could cause them to soften, which could result in toes dropping off; however, this was seen as a benefit because the feet could then be bound even more tightly. Historian Dorothy Ko has argued that these feminists have mistakenly imposed late 20th-century middle-class Western ideals of individualism and agency on a highly traditional culture. {This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Many women with bound feet were able to walk unaided and work in the fields, albeit with greater limitation than women whose feet were not bound. Foot binding resulted in the forward curvature of the lumbar vertebrae as a result of a woman struggling to balance and walk properly. It generally began when girls were 4 to 7 years old, because at that age the bones in their feet were still fairly soft and pliable, and thus easier to reshape [source: Footwear History].. First, the feet were softened in hot water. Foot binding, or ‘lotus feet’, stands as a symbol of a bygone China. [32] Not all women were always bound—some women once bound remained bound all through their lives, but some were only briefly bound, and some were bound only until their marriage. It was generally an elder female member of the girl's family or a professional foot binder who carried out the initial breaking and ongoing binding of the feet. The poor girls needed normal feet in order to work. Université de Lausanne, Faculté des lettres, 2017), Shepherd, John R. "The Qing, the Manchus, and Footbinding: Sources and Assumptions under Scrutiny.". Each woman's remains showed feet bound with gauze strips measuring 6 feet (1.8 m) in length; Zhou's skeleton, particularly well preserved, showed that her feet fit into the narrow, pointed slippers that were buried with her. In the story, Pan Yunu, renowned for having delicate feet, performed a dance barefoot on a floor decorated with the design of a golden lotus, after which the Emperor, expressing admiration, said that "lotus springs from her every step!" [32] The campaign against foot binding was very successful in some regions; in one province, a 1929 survey showed that whereas only 2.3% of girls born before 1910 had unbound feet, 95% of those born after were not bound. It is thought that as many as 10% of girls may have died from gangrene and other infections due to footbinding. Supposedly, the corrupt last emperor of the Shang, King Zhou, had a favorite concubine named Daji who was born with clubfoot. Process of Foot Binding Preparations. In the late 20th century some feminists introduced positive overtones, arguing that it gave women a sense of mastery over their bodies, and pride in their beauty. Her younger sisters would grow up to be bond-servants or domestic slaves and be able to work in the fields, but the eldest daughter would be assumed to never have the need to work. [9] The style of bound feet found in Song dynasty tombs, where the big toe was bent upward, appears to be different from the norm of later eras, and the excessive smallness of the feet - an ideal known as the "three-inch golden lotus" - may be a later development in the 16th century. At each pass around the foot, the binding cloth was tightened, pulling the ball of the foot and the heel together, causing the broken foot to fold at the arch, and pressing the toes underneath the sole. Mechanization resulted in women who worked at home facing a crisis. For example, they assume that the practice represented a woman's individual freedom to enjoy sexuality, despite lack of evidence. [95] The practice was also carried out only by women on girls, and it served to emphasize the distinction between male and female, an emphasis that began from an early age. It has been estimated that by the 19th century, 40-50 percent of all Chinese women may have had bound feet, and up to almost 100 percent among upper-class Han Chinese women. Women, their families and their husbands took great pride in tiny feet, with the ideal length, called the "Golden Lotus", being about 3 Chinese inches (寸) long, around 11 centimetres (4 in) in Western measurement. Warm water to help soften the feet. "[9] In the 13th century, scholar Che Ruoshui [zh] wrote the first known criticism of the practice: "Little girls not yet four or five years old, who have done nothing wrong, nevertheless are made to suffer unlimited pain to bind [their feet] small. [1] Bound feet became a mark of beauty and were also a prerequisite for finding a husband. [3], The general view is that the practice is likely to have originated in the time of the 10th century Emperor Li Yu of the Southern Tang, just before the Song dynasty. [96] During the Qing dynasty, attempts were made by the Manchus to ban the practice but failed, and it has been argued the attempts at banning may have in fact led to a spread of the practice among Han Chinese in the 17th and 18th centuries. [57], Foot binding was practiced in various forms and its prevalence varied in different regions. By the 19th century, it was estimated that 40–50% of Chinese women had bound feet, and among upper class Han Chinese women, the figure was almost 100%. [2] In the later 19th century, Chinese reformers also challenged the practice; however, it was not until the early 20th century that the practice of foot binding began to die out, following the efforts of anti-foot binding campaigners and campaigns. [24] In late 19th century Guangdong, it was customary to bind the feet of the eldest daughter of a lower-class family who was intended to be brought up as a lady. I laughed at myself after I became infatuated with Chinese women’s crazy, cool, and uncomfortable looking shoes. "[9][12][13], The earliest archaeological evidence for foot binding dates to the tombs of Huang Sheng, who died in 1243 at the age of 17, and Madame Zhou, who died in 1274. In extreme cases, foot binding was done by breaking the toes in several places and folding the broken toes under the sole of the foot, then breaking the arches of the feet, effectively snapping the feet in half. When unbound, the broken feet were also kneaded to soften them and the soles of the girl's feet were often beaten to make the joints and broken bones more flexible. The ultimate goal was to make them 3 inches long, the ideal “golden lotus” foot, though few individuals actually achieved that goal. Bound feet nevertheless became a significant differentiating marker between Han women and Manchu or other banner women. Whenever it started, it was a barbaric practice. [74] Other issues that might arise from foot binding included paralysis and muscular atrophy. Then, the toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent in-growth and subsequent infections, since the toes were to be pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. However, once a foot had been crushed and bound, attempting to reverse the process by unbinding was painful,[70] and the shape could not be reversed without a woman undergoing the same pain all over again. Footbinding usually began when girls were between 4 and 6 years old; some were as young as 3, and some as old as 12. Sewing straps with a walking foot. [98][99] It is also widely seen as a form of violence against women. Rich girls would have their feet bound while the poor would not. During 10th or 11th century, the practice of foot binding was started by the upper-class court dancers. [72], At the beginning of the binding, many of the foot bones would remain broken, often for years. [1], Opposition to foot binding had been raised by some Chinese writers in the 18th century. This restricted their movements and led them to be around the house. Girls whose toes were more fleshy would sometimes have shards of glass or pieces of broken tiles inserted within the binding next to her feet and between her toes to cause injury and introduce infection deliberately. [107], Some scholars such as Laurel Bossen and Hill Gates reject the notion that bound feet in China were considered more beautiful, or that it was a means of male control over women, a sign of class status, or a chance for women to marry well (in general, bound women did not improve their class position by marriage). Xu Ji 徐積 《詠蔡家婦》: 「但知勒四支,不知裹两足。」(translation: "knowing about arranging the four limbs, but not about binding her two feet); Cummings, S. & Stone, K. (1997) "Consequences of Foot Binding Among Older Women in Beijing China", in: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, “Gender and Sinology: Shifting Western Interpretations of Foot binding, 1300-1890,” ‘’ Late Imperial China’’ (1999) 20#2 pp 1-34. Foot binding was the Chinese custom of breaking and tightly binding the feet of young girls in order to change the shape and size of their feet; during the time it was practiced, bound feet were considered a status symbol and a mark of beauty. Bound feet also had a foul odor and left many young women hardly able to walk. Even after the foot bones had healed, they were prone to re-breaking repeatedly, especially when the girl was in her teenage years and her feet were still soft. The girl's broken feet required a great deal of care and attention, and they would be unbound regularly. The four smaller toes were tucked underneath, pulled toward the heel, and … [48][49] In Taiwan, the practice was also discouraged by the ruling Japanese from the beginning of Japanese rule, and from 1911 to 1915 it was gradually made illegal. During the Yuan dynasty, some would also drink directly from the shoe itself. [18] The practice, however, was encouraged by the Mongol rulers on their Chinese subjects. The bandages were repeatedly wound in a figure-eight movement, starting at the inside of the foot at the instep, then carried over the toes, under the foot, and around the heel, the freshly broken toes being pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. The foot was then carefully wound up with the material. [69], First, each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood; this was intended to soften the foot and aid the binding.