To start the process, the foot was extended at the ankle, and the fleshy part of the heel was pushed down and forward under the foot. [34], In the Song Dynasty, the status of women declined,[34] and a common argument is that the decline was the result of the revival of Confucianism as Neo-Confucianism during the Song dynasty, and that in addition to promoting the seclusion of women and the cult of widow chastity, it also contributed to the development of footbinding. Mothers, grandmothers, or older female relatives first bound the girl’s feet. "[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. [90] The Neo-Confucian Cheng Yi was said to be against footbinding and his family and descendants did not bind their feet. Each time the feet were unbound, they were washed, the toes carefully checked for injury, and the nails carefully and meticulously trimmed. [16], The first European to mention footbinding was the Italian missionary Odoric of Pordenone in the 14th century, during the Yuan dynasty. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Footbinding was first banned in 1912, but some continued binding their feet in secret. [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. [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). Thought to have begun late in the Tang Dynasty (618-960), the practice of foot binding accelerated during the Song Dynasty (960-1297) and lasted over a thousand years. [80] The belief that footbinding made women more desirable to men is widely used as an explanation for the spread and persistence of footbinding. Bones in the girls' feet would often be deliberately broken again in order to further change the size or shape of the feet. [4] The binding of feet was then replicated by other upper-class women, and the practice spread. Sometimes, as in the case of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth (1931), the accounts are relatively neutral or empirical, implying a respect for Chinese culture (note however that Buck's previous novel, "East Wind: West Wind", extensively explores the unbinding of a woman's feet, experienced as frightening and painful yet finally empowering, as part of her transition into a new, more modern and more individualistic persona under her doctor husband's tender tutelage). [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. Customized by A Sacred Journey, {This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See more ideas about history, chinese women, chinese history. 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. [71] Most of the women receiving treatment did not go out often and are disabled. Foot binding is believed to be spread from elite women to civilian women, and there are large differences in each region. Whenever it started, it was a barbaric practice. 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. If you are sensitive or squeamish, you may find this difficult to read. Foot binding lasted over 1,000 years in China and … Mei Ching Liu, "Women and the Media in China: An Historical Perspective". Footbinding usually began when girls were between 4 and 6 years old; some were as young as 3, and some as old as 12. Women with such deformed feet avoided placing weight on the front of the foot and tended to walk predominantly on their heels. Sadly, it’s estimated that up to 10 percent of girls died in the process of foot binding. The Manchus issued a number of edicts to ban the practice, first in 1636 when the Manchu leader Hong Taiji declared the founding of the new Qing dynasty, then in 1638, and another in 1664 by the Kangxi Emperor. And thus foot binding became a symbol of chastity and eroticism. [28] However, many women with bound feet were still able to walk and work in the fields, albeit with greater limitations than their non-bound counterparts. Easy fix. Sewing straps with a walking foot. The most common problem with bound feet was infection. [91][92] Modern Confucian scholars such as Tu Weiming also dispute any causal link between neo-Confucianism and footbinding. [5] The practice became increasingly common among the gentry families, later spreading to the general population, as commoners and theatre actors alike adopted footbinding. She describes her life as torture. [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. The bindings were pulled even tighter each time the girl's feet were rebound. [5], Some of the earliest possible references to foot binding appear around 1100, when a couple of poems seemed to allude to the practice. Jan 17, 2015 - Explore Cindy Lee's board "History of Foot Binding" on Pinterest. To enable the size of the feet to be reduced, the toes on each foot were curled under, then pressed with great force downward and squeezed into the sole of the foot until the toes broke.[34]. [73] Older women were more likely to break hips and other bones in falls, since they could not balance securely on their feet, and were less able to rise to their feet from a sitting position. [68], The process was started before the arch of the foot had a chance to develop fully, usually between the ages of 4 and 9. Foot binding began among the Han people. Feet altered by foot binding were known as lotus feet, and the shoes made for these feet were known as lotus shoes. 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. During the Yuan dynasty, some would also drink directly from the shoe itself. I laughed at myself after I became infatuated with Chinese women’s crazy, cool, and uncomfortable looking shoes. 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", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Foot_binding&oldid=995505930, 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. Share something you’ve done that you laughed at yourself. [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. [1] Bound feet became a mark of beauty and were also a prerequisite for finding a husband. During 10th or 11th century, the practice of foot binding was started by the upper-class court dancers. However, as the girl grew older, the bones would begin to heal. Women with bound feet could not walk and had to totter about. 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!" Rich girls would have their feet bound while the poor would not. 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. [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. The feet were bound by yards of cloth that would not stretch. [51][52] In most parts of China, however, the practice had virtually disappeared by 1949. Considered an attractive quality, the effects of the process were painful and permanent. [93] It has been noted that Confucian doctrine in fact prohibits mutilation of the body as people should not "injure even the hair and skin of the body received from mother and father". Warm water to help soften the feet. 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]. Learn more.}. When the young girls had foot binding, they would experience a painful feeling during the process. [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. 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. If you use a walking foot when sewing on quilt binding (or mini-quilt binding), it will keep the top layer of the binding from shifting ahead of the bottom layer, which causes puckers and wonky binding. Feet altered by foot binding were known as lotus feet, and the shoes made for these feet were known as lotus shoes. In … [27] Women with bound feet who wore handmade shoes would also show that she was good at her craft. {This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. {Editorial note: modern Chinese footwear has been likened to “modern foot-binding” and can … 3. [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. 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. [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. [98][99] It is also widely seen as a form of violence against women. [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. [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. 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. I do not own this song or any of the pictures. Widely used as a method to distinguish girls of the upper class from everyone else, and later as a way for the lower classes to improve their social prospects, the practice of foot-binding would c… [112], Former Chinese custom of breaking and binding the feet of young girls, A Chinese woman showing her foot, image by. 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). Foot binding has caused a lot of deaths. 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. In one version, the practice goes back to the earliest documented dynasty, the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BCE–1046 BCE). [86] According to Robert van Gulik, the prominent Song Confucian scholar Zhu Xi stressed the inferiority of women as well as the need to keep men and women strictly separate. Foot binding resulted in the forward curvature of the lumbar vertebrae as a result of a woman struggling to balance and walk properly. Foot binding eventually spread to most social classes by the Qing dynasty, with the practice only ceasing to exist in the early 20th century. Women with the ideal foot size were very desirable for marriage. This was especially the case with the toes, as small toes were especially desirable. 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. [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. 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. The binding of feet, if done properly, was started when the girl was five or six years old. They also became an avenue for poorer women to marry up in some areas; for example, in Sichuan. Furthermore, it is argued that Confucianism institutionalized the family system in which women are called upon to sacrifice themselves for the good of the family, a system that fostered such practice. There is survivors of footing binding, like Zhou Gulahen,86, says she regrets binding her feet. Foot binding, which aims to make a woman’s feet look tiny and therefore desirable, was practiced in China for centuries before it was banned in 1912 at the fall of the last imperial dynasty. Mechanization resulted in women who worked at home facing a crisis. 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. [29][59] Some working women in Jiangsu made a pretense of binding while keeping their feet natural. This restricted their movements and led them to be around the house. "Economic correlates of footbinding: Implications for the importance of Chinese daughters’ labor. Process of Foot Binding Preparations. Sewing on quilt binding. Despite the amount of care taken in regularly trimming the toenails, they would often in-grow, becoming infected and causing injuries to the toes. For most the bound feet eventually became numb. "Foot binding in a Ming dynasty cemetery near Xi’an, China. [34], The earliest-known Western anti-foot binding society, Jie Chan Zu Hui (截纏足会), was formed in Xiamen in 1874 by 60-70 women in meeting presided over by a missionary named John MacGowan. 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Last Decade. [10][11] He observed that "women's footbinding began in recent times; it was not mentioned in any books from previous eras. 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. 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. [17] However, no other foreign visitors to Yuan China mentioned the practice, including Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo (who nevertheless noted the dainty walk of Chinese women who took very small steps), perhaps an indication that it was not a widespread or extreme practice at that time. In the 19th and early 20th century, dancers with bound feet were popular, as were circus performers who stood on prancing or running horses. Another key function of foot-binding was that it was not convenient for women with bound feet to walk, thus it helped reduce the chance for women to betray their marriage through restricting their daily walking and freedom. 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