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Jan 20, 2012

Photo: Library of Congress (LOC)

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A high caste lady's dainty 'lily feet' – as they really were – in China

”When a Celestial takes into his hand a woman's foot, especially if it is very small, the effect upon him is precisely the same as is provoked in a European by a young and firm bosom. All the Celestials whom I have interrogated on this point have replied unanimously: "Oh, a little foot! You Europeans cannot understand how exquisite, how sweet, how exciting it is!" ~Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty

Women have done many things for beauty throughout the course of history – from indifferently using arsenic or lead-based cosmetics, to ear and other body piercings, to yet more extreme forms of body modification. One of the most agonizingly painful of such practices is the Chinese custom of foot binding, where the feet of women – typically young girls – were broken and bound until they were able to fit inside a tiny shoe.

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Posted: Friday January 20, 2012, 8:25 am
Tags: foot feet chinese women fetish torture agony bound [add/edit tags]

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Ge M. (218)
Friday January 20, 2012, 9:12 am
I don't know when this started but assume that it was because the girl didn't need to walk and showed her status in society. The mother would bind their daughter's feet, breaking bones to do so. The little girl would scream and cry and some mothers could not do this. When older the daughters would beat their mothers for giving in to their screams and making them unsuitable to be a wife of concubine. I have seen some of these slippers/shoes and they would have been too small for some dolls I've had as a child. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering that these girls/women suffered but many woman suffer for fashion.......

Beatrice B. (24)
Friday January 20, 2012, 9:27 am
In the 10th century, in China, legend says a prince began the practice of foot binding because he loved the small "Lily Feet" of his concubine. The tiny foot became the mark of a wealthy and well-born woman.
For over 1000 years, rich women had their feet bound. The new Republic banned foot binding in 1912, and the custom finally died out in the 1930's.
I bet Cinderella's tiny foot didn't look like this!
The perfectly bound foot was only 3" long. Women who got their feet bound could not walk, run, or dance.
They just sat around and said, "Ouch!"

19th century photo of a San Francisco
girl with bound feet.
(Isaiah Taber) Foot binding began between the ages of four and seven. A strip of bandage ten feet long and two inches wide was wrapped tightly around the foot. The four small toes were broken and bent under the sole. The arch of the foot was bowed to make the foot shorter.
The bandage was tightened each day and the foot was put into smaller and smaller shoes.
In two years, the process was finished. By then, the foot was useless for walking very far.

Beverley Jackson let us use her pictures from the book she wrote about bound feet.

A slipper for a bound foot. Splendid Slippers, Beverley Jackson.

X-ray of the normal
and the bound foot Bound feet had to be washed and cared for daily. If toe nails grew into the instep, infection could set in. If the bindings were too tight, gangrene and blood poisoning could occur. The bound foot was painful and tender forever. It often had an unpleasant smell.
That's really nice to know!

Dynasty Antique Shoes

These boots were not made for walking!
pictures from

Photo taken around 1900


Get a ruler or measuring tape and measure your foot!

How long is your foot? 6" 6 1/2 " 7" 7 1/2 " 8" 8 1/2 " 9" 9 1/2 " 10" 10 1/2 " 11" 11 1/2" 12" 12 1/2 "

How much longer is your foot than the perfectly bound foot? (We told you!)

2" 2 1/2 " 3" 3 1/2 " 4" 4 1/2 " 5" 5 1/2 " 6" 6 1/2 " 7" 7 1/2 " 8" 8 1/2 " 9"

Why do you think foot binding was banned?

Lydia S. (71)
Friday January 20, 2012, 9:45 am
A similar atrocity is done to mainly muslim women, in the form of Female Genital Mutilation. This practice, continues to violate the rights of little girls, who are often subjected to this horrific practice anywhere from several DAYS old, to puberty. "Surgery" is done using crude, unsanitary "instruments, including broken glass, tin can lids, used razor blades, etc. Without anesthetic for pain, or anything to stop the bleeding, these poor little girls often die from the procedure, going into shock from pain & hemorraghing -- or dying from infections/septicemia days later.

The saddest thing of all, is that their mothers & female relatives insist on doing this to their little girls (I went through it, so should you!).

If the child survives this butchery, the poor girl suffers a lifetime of urinary tract infections, pelvic infections, infertility (which in muslim culture, renders her "useless" if she cannot produce children) and often death, during childbirth. Since many "mothers" are child brides, their first birth, is often their last! The complications from the mutilation, makes pushing the baby out, virtually impossible. And since most births are at home with a midwife, mortality is high! The statistics are horrific!

While there are those who insist it's an "African" custom, it is practiced primarily among muslims in the African countries. In Nigeria, the Northern part of the country is muslim -- there it is done almost 90%. In Southern Nigeria, which is predominently Christian & animist, it is almost unheard of!

While muslims say it is "against the koran", the fact remains, in Somalia it is almost 100% -- and islamic clergy encourage the practice, saying it keeps the women "virtuous"! I suppose having your clitorous cut off, excised & your labia removed & having all stitched up, except a small opening for urine & menstrual flow -- sex must be painful, and childbirth, agony! In such a case, sex is a chore, required by a husband -- but not a joyous pleasure for the woman! So SAD!

Vlasta M. (7)
Friday January 20, 2012, 10:31 am
Fortunately, Chinese these days do not do such crazy thing as binding feet of young girls!

It is amazing how patriarchal societies put women in all kinds of nasty garb,,,from binding feet, corsets and now burkhas, which just show misogyny of those men who invented those prisons for women!

Alexa R. (330)
Friday January 20, 2012, 2:29 pm
It was during the Song Dynasty (10th century), when this evil practice started and it only stopped around the 1940s!

When I was studying in Taiwan, I met an elderly Chinese lady who was from the elite of pre-communist China, and she had had bound feet. She explained to me about the Lotus Gait too, the bound feet and having one of a girl's hip-bones broken, made her sway and limp in a way that was considered sexually exciting by men.

There had also been several very good books written by Chinese women about this -- agonising beyond imagination. We can be so thankful this evil practice is no more!

Allan Yorkowitz (448)
Friday January 20, 2012, 3:31 pm
This long performed practice just reinforces China's position on what a woman is worth.....

Elizabeth Goldstone (50)
Monday January 23, 2012, 12:56 am
very sad my dear see this pictures..........also the japeneses haven do this in the past
thank you for share!!!


Beatrice B.
female , married, 3 children
Ilford, United Kingdom
No shares

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