Published 2022-01-17
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Feet Binding In China - A Shocking Tradition Made Women Disabled!

For nearly 1,000 years, the Chinese were truly obsessed with small women's feet, and girls did everything to meet the prevailing standards of beauty. This was not easy, as the ideal was hailed as feet 7 to 12 cm long and up to 2.5 cm wide, and this could only be achieved at the cost of pain, disability, and real torture. Squeeze bandages were used and girls' bones were broken from an early age so that they could wear miniature shoes in the future. The shocking tradition began to be cultivated by a Chinese legend about a woman who delighted the emperor with her tiny feet. How did an innocent tale contribute to the suffering of millions? What cruel treatments did girls have to go through to have filigree feet? Why did body modification increase women's chances of marrying well while limiting their freedom? Read on to learn all about the Chinese tradition of foot bandaging.

Strange standards of beauty

Standards of beauty have changed over the years and depending on the region of the world. Of course, what is considered beautiful now is very different from what was admired in the past. For example, the ancient Maya were crazy about... cone-shaped skulls. For this purpose, the heads of infants were tied to a board and compressed with tape and other tools to achieve the desired deformation. During the Middle Ages in Europe, wealthy women had to pluck out all their eyelashes because they were symbols of exaggerated sexuality. Wide foreheads were also in vogue at the time, and women shaved their hair off the front of their heads to meet the demands of beauty. Japanese women, on the other hand, have been putting black dye on their teeth for thousands of years to be attractive to men, and today, with the cult of the snow-white smile, it is hard to believe that a blackened smile could even be wildly attractive to someone. In China, during the Qing Dynasty, women grew their nails as long as possible to show they were rich enough not to have to work with their hands, and around the 10th century, the tradition of foot binding was born - one of the most controversial beauty practices in history. Little girls underwent real torture to deform their feet to the smallest possible size, all because of a certain Chinese legend.

The legend of "China's Cinderella"

As legend has it, recorded in a collection of short stories from the 9th century, there once lived a beautiful girl named Ye Xian. She was an orphan raised by a cruel mother and lived with her lazy half-sisters, and this immediately brings to mind the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale of Cinderella. There are even more similarities between the stories because Ye Xian went to a ball at the imperial court, where she lost her slipper, and when the ruler found the owner of the lost slipper, he was so delighted with her tiny feet that he immediately asked her to marry him. So, if a woman could find love and lead a royal life, not because of a pretty face or intelligence, but because of her feet, why in the real world it would not be possible. Thus began the tradition of foot binding. The fashion was first established at the court of the reigning monarch, and then quickly spread throughout society.

Golden lotuses

The obsession with small feet took hold for good, and Ye Xian's feet from legend became an ideal to strive for. Girls as young as 4 to 9 years old began the process of shrinking them so that as mature girls they could boast of their "golden lotuses", for that is what the tiny female feet were called. Having them was a way to get married because men were crazy about these parts of a woman's body. They became an object of erotic fascination, fetish, and women with tied feet moving with a swaying and uncertain step were considered very seductive. Golden lotuses were also a marker of social position, a chance for women to belong to the upper class to a rich husband, but also a way to limit their freedom. Why? The answer is on the next page…

Small feet limit women's freedom

The tradition of binding women's feet developed during the Song Dynasty when women's freedoms were drastically restricted. It was decided that the fair sex did not need education, divorce and remarriage were forbidden, and foot-banding became a way to restrict freedom. The process of shrinking them was extremely painful and often involved breaking bones, so women were virtually unable to leave their homes. It was almost impossible to move freely in the streets, and this, according to the rulers, guaranteed the purity and fidelity of the women. The dark side of the tradition was also the fact that the fair sex, in order to fit into the existing standards, agreed to disability and torture, because in order to deform the feet it was necessary to suffer a lot.

Foot deformation process

The whole process of changing the shape of the foot took about a year. It was carried out on children as young as 4 years old and proceeded as follows. First, the feet were soaked in a mixture containing animal blood to soften the skin. Then the nails were shortened as much as possible and a bandage was put on the foot in such a way that the toes were stretched as much as possible towards the heel. In the process, it was not uncommon for bones to even break, and the compressive bands prevented them from fusing normally. Even though the girls suffered agonizing pain, they had to wear not only the bandage but also shoes, which were supposed to ensure a better effect. Every few weeks, the bandages were squeezed even tighter, and smaller shoes were used, and the deformation process ended when the foot reached the shape of a pointed hoof. This was very risky for the health and even the life of the young women, as you will read on the next page...

Chinese foot restraint could end in death

Foot banding carried enormous risks. Fractures led to serious infections. Nails grew into the flesh, and lack of circulation often contributed to gangrene. In its final stage, the toes would literally rot and fall off the body, which was not seen as a bad thing, after all, this way the foot could become even smaller! Sometimes gangrene was deliberately induced by inserting shards of glass between bandages so that they penetrated the skin, causing wounds to heal. When the resulting infection entered the bloodstream it could even lead to septic shock and it is estimated that about 10% of girls who had their feet restrained left the world through sepsis.

Contests for little feet

If one managed to survive the entire process, the feet slowly died after 2 or 3 years, making them painless. However, binding bandages still had to be applied. The most desirable size for a deformed foot was a length between 7 and 12 cm - of course, the smaller the better - and a width of about 2.5 cm. Wearing normal shoes was out of the question, so women made their own shoes, which often looked like small works of art. They were made of colorful materials, decorated, and covered with fancy embroidery. Women with small feet were very popular among men, and their deformed body parts were a source of real pride. In some Chinese provinces, there were even competitions for the most beautiful feet. Their owners, usually confined to their homes, could go out to the town square where they displayed their "golden lotuses" in public and hoped to win. Deformed feet also aroused passion and desire. How is this possible? Read on...

Small feet - a symbol of desire

It was believed that the small feet of Chinese women were not only a visual asset but also increased a woman's sexual attractiveness. In historical records from those times, one can even find descriptions convincing that thanks to "golden lotuses" intimate contacts become better. Dozens of caresses of this part of the body were presented to ensure the pleasure of lovers. It was claimed that the conical shape of the feet and the folds on the skin refer to the appearance of the female sexual organs so that mating with their owner provides unforgettable pleasure. Even the smell of such feet, usually very unpleasant because of bacteria multiplying in the damaged skin, was treated as erotically stimulating. That's why men were so eager to choose girls with "golden lotuses" for wives, and when choosing a partner, her feet were looked at first.

The tradition of foot restraint has survived 1,000 years

The tradition of foot-binding became so ingrained in Chinese culture that it was not until the late 19th century that it slowly began to be abandoned. More and more foreigners and missionaries came to that part of the world, and thanks to them, many people began to oppose the inhuman treatment of women. At the beginning of the 20th century, the ruling government issued a decree forbidding the cutting of women's feet, and when the Republic of China was established, the practice was criminalized and punishable by death. It is estimated that in 1949 the custom was definitively ended. To this day, evidence of its existence is not only tiny shoes found by archaeologists in the graves of women who lived hundreds of years ago, but also a small group of people who still live with deformed feet. These are elderly women who fondly recall the times in China when small, pointed feet were the standard of beauty among all women.

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