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Transcript of Foot Binding
History of Foot Binding
History of Foot Binding (Continued)
Foot Binding started in the Song dynasty(the tenth century) and ended when the Republic of China was made(the twentieth century). In the seventeenth century, the Manchu tried to abolish foot binding, but didn't work. Overall, Foot Binding had lasted for about one thousand years.
Origin of Foot Binding
There are three stories about the origin of footbinding. The first story is that during the Shang dynasty, the concubine Daji who had clubfoot asked the emperor to make footbinding mandatory for all the girls so that she would be the standard of beauty. Another story is that Pan Yuer, who was the courtesan of emperor Xiao Baojuan, had delicate feet, and danced over a platform filled with golden lotuses. The emperor admired that and said in Chinese "Lotus springs from her every step!". This may have given the words "golden lotus" or "lotus feet" used to describe bound feet, but it is not sure whether Pan Yuer had bound feet or not. The last one, which most people believe in is that foot binding originated from the time of the Southern Tang dynasty. Emperor Li Yu asked his concubine Yao Niang to bind her feet with white silk to form a shape of a crescent moon, and perform a lotus dance with the points of her feet.
The process usually started in the age between 2 and 5. Binding usually started in winter so that feet were more likely be numb, and so that the pain would not be extreme. At first, the feet were soaked in a warm mixture of animal blood and herbs; so that they can soften their feet. After, their toenails were cut as short as possible to prevent infections. Then, cotton bandages 3m long and 5cm wide were prepared soaked in the blood and herb mixture. The toes on each foot were curled under, and was squeezed until the broke. The bandages were repeatedly wound.
Each time they were unbound, it took great
care & attention.
Foot Binding was a custom in China where usually young girls under 6 years old tie up their feet with bandages to stop their feet growth. When they did that, the foot size was not over 10 - 15cm. Females with bound feet had extremely modified feet, and could not walk easily because their feet were bend inwardly.
Originally, this custom was only from the wealthy class, but at the end of the Qing dynasty, almost all the women except the poor class (who needs to work) started having bound feet. Usually, the child's mom or a female relative bound the child's feet, and that child had to stay home one to two years because of the pain of foot binding.
Yao Niang was described as 'skimmed on top of golden lotus'. After, many upper-class woman replicated that, and foot binding spread. Foot binding became more popular in the Song dynasty, and bound feet became a mark of beauty and elegance. It also became a way for poor woman to marry into money; for example, in Guangdong (nineteenth century), it was customary to bind the eldest daughter's feet so that she can be a 'lady'.
The bindings were often pulled even tighter each time. The unbinding and rebinding repeated as often as possible; for the rich, daily, and for the poor, two to three times a week.
The most common problem with bound feet was infection. Although they took great care , sometimes the bound feet would often in-grow, and getting infected. Since they bound their feet tightly, the circulation in the toes was faulty. And since their toes were faulty, any injuries were unlikely to heal, and slowly worsen leading to infected toes. After getting infected, the infection could softened their toes and cause the toes would drop off, but it was seen as a benefit since it means that they can bind their feet even more tighter and have even smaller feet.
Some of the girls with fleshy feet deliberately bound their feet with broken glass or tile to cause infection for small feet.
At the beginning of binding, the broken feet remained broken, but as the girl get older, the bones would begin to heal. When that happened, they re-broke the bones especially when they are teenagers and they have soft feet. Old woman with bound feet were more likely to break hips and other bones in falls, since they couldn't balance securely with their feet, and were less able to rise to their feet from a sleeping position.