FOOT BINDING

Foot binding was a practice in China for almost 1,000 years - ending only in the 20th century.  Small feet were considered very feminine in Chinese society and, the smaller a woman's feet, the more likely it would be for her to find a wealthy husband.

A mother or grandmother started to bind her daughter's or granddaughter's feet when the child was around four to seven years old. The process was started before the arch of the foot had a chance to properly develop and usually started during the winter months so that the feet were numb and the pain would not be as extreme.

First, each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood.  Then her toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent ingrowths and infections. The girl's feet were delicately massaged. Silk or cotton bandages, ten feet long and two inches wide, were prepared by soaking them in the same blood and herb mix as before. Each of the toes were then broken and wrapped in the wet bandages, which would constrict when drying, and pulled tightly downwards toward the heel. There may have been deep cuts made in the sole to facilitate this.

This ritual would be repeated every two days, with fresh bindings. Every time the bandages were rebound they would be pulled tighter making this process continually painful.

This process led to deformation of the foot and great pain to the bound woman.  In addition to finding the bound foot sexually appealing, it would also mean a woman's complete devotion as it was painful for her to walk and wander out of the house without an escort to help her.

The downside, aside from the pain, was that a woman's bound feet would smell terrible thanks to the colony of fungus that would occupy the unwashable folds of the binding cloth.

There are still woman alive today that endured the pain of foot binding.  These photos document the incredible lengths that people went through for impossibly small feet.

 

 

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