What is Chinese foot binding?

Chinese foot binding was an ancient practice from the 13th century, in which the feet of young female children were very tightly bound to prevent them from growing. The practice did start in higher social classes and then moved to rural area where up to half of the female children were subjected to it. As the child grew, the feet remained smaller. It was a barbaric and painful practice. The feet were wrapped in gauze and placed in decorative footwear called lotus shoes. The practice is no longer done as it was eventually outlawed, but there are a few very elderly Chinese woman in some rural areas that are still alive with bound feet.

The purpose of the foot binding was to keep the feet of the female small as a smaller foot was considered more erotic and desirable, so was a measure of beauty and a status symbol. The marriage prospects for girls with smaller feet were better and the family could demand a higher dowry for their female daughters. The most desirable females had a foot that was less than three inches (ten centimeters), called the “golden lotus.” A four inch foot (thirteen centimeters) was the “silver lotus.” Larger than the four inches was consider unattractive and called the “iron lotus”.

Once a female had been through the process of the Chinese foot binding, there was not a lot that could be done for the pain and disability except to keep the foot bound. There was no treatment available or offered to correct the deformity. They had a life long pain and restricted mobility, so became dependent on their family and husband.

About the author

University lecturer, clinician, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger, dad