Foot Binding

Foot binding came up in our discussion (don't even ask how or why) yesterday. Rick was quite disgusted(he was the one who brought it up by the way) with the whole idea of foot binding. He sees it as a show of male dominance over women and is appalled by it because it crippled women. As a Chinese woman, I can understand why foot binding(albeit how painful and crippling it was) was done for almost a thousand years in China. It was fashionable and could give you a better chance of getting married into a wealthy or better family. I can see why mothers are forced to put their poor daughters through the ordeal which left their daughters crippled and maimed for life.

Foot binding started because an emperor was enthralled by how graceful and exotic one of his court dancers feet were. The dancer had wrapped her feet in silk to dance(ballet style) on a lotus stage. Thus, bound feet are called 'golden lotus'. Since then, the craze of 2 - 3-inched feet took president over eveything else. Mothers started binding their daughters feet for life in hope of finding good and wealthy husbands for them and looking for potential daughters-in-law with golden lotus. Not only that, society also dictated that bound feet were beautiful and normal ones ugly. Bound feet were also a sign of social standings for the family. Which good obedient daughter back then would want to shame her family by having ugly normal feet? Of course, the men also thought it was exotic and women with bound feet were not likely to indulge in affairs because the women were made immobile by their bound feet. This lasted until the early 20th century and only after 'combined' efforts of the communist era, nationalist revolution and western missionaries was the practice of foot binding eradicated.

Yes, bound feet hurt for life because the bones of the feet are broken and in time are totally useless and many women die from infections as well. The bindings have to be kept on and rebound after they wash their feet throughout their lifetime. Bound feet in itself already hurt and when these women were forced to take the bindings off, it hurt as well because without the bindings, the feet expand and there's no support for their feet which made walking just as painful. Some eventually bound their feet again.

Women with bound feet were not expected to do much work because back then only the lucky(or unlucky) wealthy girls did it. Then this practice spread all over China except for the poorest of the poor who had to work in the fields. Interesting enough, the Hakkas did not practice foot binding because they were the primary workforce of the paddy fields. Hakka daughters had to work in the fields alongside the men to plant paddy so they did not have their feet bound.

On a lighter note, aren't these shoes exquisite?



gerald said...


Bea said...

hahah yup....

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