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.
A high class lady’s “lily feet” unbound. (Library of Congress)
“Lily feet” compared with normal feet, clearly showing the grotesque nature of foot binding. (C.H. Graves)
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)
Women with bound feet often needed the support of another person to walk.
A Chinese woman’s crippled, unbound feet without her 3-inch shoes.
The feet were often unbound and beaten to keep the bones broken. (Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg, 1918)
Young girl with bound feet. This was often done by professional foot binders, as mothers were more likely to bind the feet loosely.
Feet were bound for life, which hid the true nature of foot binding. (Albert Friedenthal)
The tiny shoes on a woman’s bound feet. It is easy to understand why walking could be difficult.
Comparison of a “lily foot” with an unbound foot. (Husmoderens blad 1898 page 170)
The ideal bound foot was 3 inches. (Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg,1918)
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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