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Ruth Fainlight
History of Chinese Foot Binding

The Chinese tradition of foot binding is said to have began as early as 960 BC during the Sung Dynasty.  One of many legends claims that this tradition began after Yao Niang, a concubine for the Chinese prince Li Yu, danced for him with her feet bound together in a lily shape.  It looked so attractive that her feet became a model of beauty for the women of China.
Women with bound feet were considered beautiful to the men of China.  A man would often refuse to marry a woman who did not have bound feet.  Eventually, the women of China found it necessary to bind their feet in order to marry with honor.
The mother was responsible for beginning the process of her daughters binding.  Foot binding could begin as early as the age of three.  Every few days, the girl's mother would bind the feet with cloth bandages, pulling the bandages tighter each time the feet were bound.  This resulted in the girl having feet without a developed arch, which made her feet look like lotus flowers.
The binding of the feet not only caused a great deal of pain, but could also cause a variety of infections.  The skin on the foot often died after about three years, along with the bone.  This usually caused a rancid smell.  The infections of the feet would sometimes go away, but usually led to disease, which sometimes led to death.  Women with bound feet were found to have a greater amount of disabilities later in life.  These disabilities range from not being able to get out of a chair without assistance to having a loss of bone density.  Many older Chinese women even have trouble simply walking.  Luckily in 1901, the first movement to end the tradition of foot binding began.  In 1911, it was finally outlawed by the new Chinese republic.  


History Link

History Link



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