If you’ve never seen images of the so called “lotus feet”, prepare to be shocked. Even more shocking, however, is the fact that they were considered a symbol of beauty and status for many centuries. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The tradition required that, when girls were about four, their feet were bound tightly (and painfully) in order to prevent further growth. To soften them, the girls’ feet were soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood and the toenails were cut back as deeply as possible. Before binding the foot, the toes were curled backwards and then pressed downwards and squeezed into the sole of the foot until they broke.
The arch of the foot was then broken and bandages wrapped up around the foot, pressing the toes underneath. The feet would regularly be unbound and washed, when the feet would be soaked to soften them as described above and the wraps would then be reapplied even tighter. The end result is seen in the images below.
Traditionally, match-makers and mother-in-laws required their son’s future wife to have bound feet. That was seen as a sign that she would be a good wife (meaning subservient and uncomplaining).
The practice continued until about 1939 and the last surviving women with lotus feet are now in their late 80s and 90s. (Scroll down for the amazing videos.)
1. Once a symbol of beauty and status, foot binding, also known as lotus feet, was carried out in China since the 10th century, falling out of favor in the early 20th century before it was outlawed in 1911.
2. Zhao Hua Hong is one of the women photographed by Hong Kong-based Jo Farrell who had their feet bound as a child in rural China.
3. The tradition of foot binding started during the Song Dynasty and was banned in 1911, although it continued in rural areas until around 1939.
4. The process was started when women were aged between four and nine before their feet were fully developed and was often carried out during the winter months when the girls’ feet would be numb from the cold.
5. Feet were soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood to soften them and toenails were cut back as far as possible. The toes on each foot were curled backwards and then pressed downwards and squeezed into the sole of the foot until the toes broke.
6. The arch was then broken and the bandages wound around the foot, pressing the toes underneath. The feet would be unbound and washed regularly, when the feet would be kneaded to soften them and the bandages reapplied even tighter.
7. Ms. Farrell described her subjects, including Yange Jinge as ‘the most amazing, kind, generous and compassionate women I have ever met’.
8. The women photographed are all peasant farmers living and working in rural areas, far away from the city life where foot binding was used as a display of social status, as wealthy women who did not need to work would have their feet bound.
9. Many young girls used foot binding because it was a mark of beauty and were was one of the main avenues for women to find a husband in China or marry into money.
10. Ms. Farrell said she hoped that when completed her project would be a useful aid for anthropological studies, and could be used in museum exhibits.
11. Ms. Farrell said that in every culture there are forms of body modification that adhere to that cultures’ perception of beauty, such as Botox, FGM, breast augmentation, scarring and tattooing, to rib removals, toe tucks and labrets.
12. Women, their families, and their husbands took great pride in tiny feet, with the ideal length, being around 2.75 inches.
13. Many of the foot bones would remain broken for years, but would start to heal as the girl grew older. However they were still prone to repeatedly re-breaking, especially during teenage years when the girl’s feet were soft.
14. Since they could not balance securely, older women who had bound feet were less able to rise from a sitting position and were more likely to fall and break their hips and other bones.
15. Many women who underwent foot binding were left with lasting disabilities, and missionaries working in China in the last 1800s said the practice should be banned to promote equality between men and women.
And here are the videos:
Via The Daily Mail.
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