Chinese Foot Binding in Pictures (some photos are graphic)

An X-ray of a woman’s broken, bound feet. (Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection)
An X-ray of a woman’s broken, bound feet. (Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection)

Chinese foot binding of women, particularly among the wealthy classes, was a common practice for many centuries. Foot binding was one of the most painful “beauty” practices ever conceived. The foot was broken and bound when a girl was 2-5 years of age, before the arch had fully developed.

The feet were bound for life, periodically being unbound, washed and beaten to keep the bones broken. Small bound feet were considered highly erotic in China for nearly a thousand years. Fondling a woman’s bound feet in China was the equivalent of fondling a woman’s breasts in Western society.

Without bound feet, a woman could not marry anyone in the higher classes and would be confined to the lower classes. A woman with bound feet was often confined to the home because of the great difficulty in walking.

Such women often needed the support of someone else when standing. Although binding feet was not done in all parts of China, this grotesque practice was finally outlawed by the Chinese government in 1911.

chinese foot binding

A high class lady’s “lily feet” unbound. (Library of Congress)

chinese foot binding

“Lily feet” compared with normal feet, clearly showing the grotesque nature of foot binding. (C.H. Graves)

chinese foot binding

This photo clearly shows how deformed the feet were; a tiny shoe was won on the big toe with the rest of the foot bound so it couldn’t be seen. (Underwood and Underwood)

chinese foot binding

Women with bound feet often needed the support of another person to walk.

chinese foot binding

A Chinese woman’s crippled, unbound feet without her 3-inch shoes.

chinese foot binding

The feet were often unbound and beaten to keep the bones broken. (Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg, 1918)

chinese foot binding

Young girl with bound feet. This was often done by professional foot binders, as mothers were more likely to bind the feet loosely.

chinese foot binding

Feet were bound for life, which hid the true nature of foot binding. (Albert Friedenthal)

chinese foot binding

The tiny shoes on a woman’s bound feet. It is easy to understand why walking could be difficult.

chinese foot binding

Comparison of a “lily foot” with an unbound foot. (Husmoderens blad 1898 page 170)

chinese foot binding

The ideal bound foot was 3 inches. (Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg,1918)

chinese foot binding

Foot binding was outlawed by the Chinese government in 1911. But one can still see elderly women hobbling around on bound feet. (Albert Friedenthal)

For further information, see: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-foot-binding?image=0

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