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Transcript of Foot-Binding
10th century A.D.
Foot-Binding : Carlin Zia
Origin of the Practice
It is generally agreed that foot-binding emerged during the ca. 50 year period between the T'ang and Song Dynasties
Legend points to the second Emperor of the Song Dynasty, Li Yü (937-978), and his concubine, Yao-niang.
The 3-inch Golden Lotus
Begun when girls were between the ages of 4 and 9
Preparation included soaking the feet and trimming nails
Big toe pulled back, four smaller toes and arch folded under and broken
Figure-8 wrapping to keep the shape
From Riches to Rags
From Trend to Tradition
Hypergamy was already a feature of Chinese culture - bound feet became a "passport to social mobility" (Lim, 2007).
After the initial proliferation, mothers with bound feet were binding their daughters' feet. Mothers and daughters alike accepted the reality of the near impossibility of marriage for women with unbound feet.
Anti Foot-binding Sentiments
"Growth and Maturation"
In 1911 China became a Republic. Physical education programs and other competitive sports opportunities were made available to women.
In 1922 the Communists declared equality of the sexes. Inclusion in the Communist agenda proved somewhat problematic and stagnating for feminism.
Allegedly originating from Emperor Li Yü's encounters with Yao-niang, the practice of foot-binding spread from the top down.
“Women’s small feet came to be considered as the most intimate part of her body, the very symbol of femininity, and the most powerful center of sex-appeal.”
R.H. van Gulik (2003: p. 218)
Feet were considered the most taboo part of the body. Touching a woman's feet became standard foreplay.
The Western Influence
Christian missionaries introduced not only Western religion (importantly universal Fatherhood of God), but also Western liberal thought.
Anti Foot-binding Movement: the missionary influence was reinforced by Western political and military influence. Furthermore, the Movement reached beyond Christian Chinese to non-Christian, indigenous Chinese on resonant social and practical bases.
Foot-binding was officially banned in 1902.
Many ethnic minorities never bound their feet.
The Manchu (Qing Dynasty) tried unsuccessfully to end foot-binding.
Some Qing-era thinkers advocated social and practical objections.
The Communist Party stressed exercise for military survival.
The Nationalist Party stressed exercise for national service.
“While women in general went backwards, sportswomen went forwards sustained by society’s pride in their success. They became emancipationist icons. They kept the flag of feminism flying in the face of reactionary social pressure.”
Hong, pg. 296
Drucker, Alison R.
1981 "The Influence of Western Women on the Anti-Footbinding Movement 1840-1911." Historical Reflections 8(3):179-199.
1997 Footbinding, Feminism and Freedom. London: Frank Cass.
2007 "Painful Memories for China's Footbinding Survivors" / "Footbinding: From Status Symbol to Subjugation." NPR, March 19.
1967 Daughter of Han. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
van Gulik, R. H.
2003 Sexual Life in Ancient China. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.