Sunday, May 2, 2010

Foot binding ~ Lotus shoes

I have 2 pairs of antique hand embroidered Lotus shoes framed hanging in my house (see below). I was and am intrigued by the history of these shoes. I bought these at an antique shop in Thailand. Not only are they hand made, unique and very beautiful, it reminds me of the endurance women have to go through all over the world. The tradition of foot-binding is tied up in issues of beauty, marriageability and sex. With their feet bound, women walked with a "lotus gait" that tightened their pelvic muscles. "The men said it was like always making love to a virgin.

These lotus shoes below are 4 inches long = 10 cm!!





For over a thousand years, Chinese women's beauty was judged by the size of their feet. the ideal foot was 3 inches long!!, and shaped like a lotus bud. Few women achieved this ideal.

Foot binding began for most girls at about 6 years of age, and they would wear the bindings for the rest of their lives. Over 90% of women in china bound their feet, including women from all classes and regions. A woman spent many hours making and embroidering her own shoes. She needed sixteen pairs of shoes before her wedding, four for each season, including sleeping slippers and red special occasion shoes.

Typically, a matchmaker carried one shoe to her prospective mother-in-law, rather than a portrait. If the shoe was small, she was judged to be obedient and able to withstand hardship. If the needlework was fine, she was considered to be self-disciplined and skillful. they have wonderful embroidery, mostly with flowers, but a few with dragons.



In the 1920's as Chinese women became more aware of western fashions, binding began to fall out of favor in some circles, especially in Shanghai. In 1949, with 'Liberation' it was outlawed! (Thank Goodness!!)

These shoes are reminders of the extremes women went to in order to look beautiful. They are also beautifully crafted examples of Chinese women's main creative outlet for a thousand years.

Although foot binding is not allowed anymore, there are still older women alive today that have feet that are bounded, since you can't walk normally on these deformed feet anymore!





This is just one example that women had to go through for beauty and old traditions....
Do you know a great example like this in your country of old traditions that do not exist anymore??

Have a great week ahead!
Mireille

9 comments:

Leah and Maya said...

this always freaked me out, I was a size 10 shoe by 6th grade, thank goodness they quit growing then.

Gem said...

gosh horrifying - was there a tradition of it in Thailand too? Or just the Chinese communities in thailand?

April said...

Oh my goodness these pictures made me a little sick to my stomach to look at. It's hard to believe but then again not because women have always been held to beauty standards quite often imposed by men and society. Thanks for posting such an interesting fact! I want to read more on this subject!

hirallysantiago@gmail.com said...

It is crazy, huh! Did you read the novel "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" - even though it was a novel it was hard to read especially as the feet of the girls were being broken and how her little sister died!

funnylittlepollywogs said...

This has always been a fascinating topic to me as well. I am so thankful that my big ole feet never had to be bound! I would love to have a pair of lotus slippers, I always keep an eye out for them. Thanks for sharing.

Annie said...

It really does hurt my heart to imagine the process. I read that the mother had to start breaking the bones of her young daughter's feet and it was a continuous breaking and binding process as the foot "fought" to restore itself. Many times the mother didn't have the heart to do it and so the grandmother would do it.

Mireille said...

I haven't read that novel "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" , but I will look out for it Hirally. And I am not sure if this was done in the Chinese community in Thailand Gem. These shoes I bought might be just from China, since the antique shop had more items from Macao.

plantagenet said...

It is just painful to only look at those crippled feet. This way husbands could be sure, women wouldnt get any far...
How awful and degrading for women as so many 'traditions' are.
Thanks for reminding...

Maci Miller said...

Oh, those pictures of the feet are just horrible! Can't imagine what those poor women went through. Makes my feet hurt just thinking about it!

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