First, each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood; this was intended to soften the foot and aid the binding. Ancient History Encyclopedia. History of Foot Binding. O Christmas Tree, Your Green Branches Delight Us! When the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911 and 1912, the new Nationalist government banned foot-binding again. Copyright Policy and Infringement Notification. Foot binding was outlawed in 1911 because it was causing many deaths. Foot binding was a custom practiced on young girls and women for approximately one thousand years in China, beginning in the 10th century and ending in the early 20th century. According to a legend, a beautiful concubine danced on her toes like a ballerina inside of a giant lotus flower. The world began to regard foot binding as something that was an integral part of the old China and became a custom that was deemed as barbaric. License. The smaller the feet, the more attractive they were, and it became a distinct mark of elegance, even the style of the way a woman with bound feet would walk became a necessity for all women; small, light steps was seen as elegant. "Foot-Binding." Legend says that foot binding began in Shang times. This colonization coincided with the height of foot binding. (Image: YouTube/Screenshot via Living History: Bound Feet Women of China). The smaller the feet the more attractive they were, even erotic for some, and it became a distinct mark of elegance. The practice of binding feet may have started with the dancer Yaoniang, who performed in the Tang dynasty court, or more generally the Turkic dancers who performed there during the 10th century CE. ". The origins of ancient Chinese foot binding are unclear. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0). Related Content It was not uncommon for one or more toes to be lost or to have infections in the foot or gangrene. When all was ready, the task was done by the older women of the family or by a professional foot-binder. From the start, foot-binding was imbued with erotic overtones. Those who had their feet bound to become more desirable, now found themselves being abandoned by their husbands, as it was no longer fashionable. The aim of the long and excruciating process was to have feet no longer than 7.5-10 cm (3-4 inches), known as jinlian — “Golden Lotus” or “Lotus” feet, though few individuals actually achieved that goal. It is not clear when footbinding began but it is commonly linked to the second ruler of the Tang Dynasty Li Yu (937-978). Four to six was the ideal age, as you could reason with the girls and help them deal with the pain. The practice of female foot-binding in China originated in the mid-900s, after Emperor Li Yu was tantalized by a dancer who “bound her feet into the shape of a new moon.” Within a couple hundred years, it had become customary for girls to begin having their feet systematically massaged, broken and bound at the age of 5. It has been estimated that by the 19th century, 40-50 percent of all Chinese women may have had bound feet, and up to almost 100 percent among upper-class Han Chinese women. The Effects of Foot-binding on the Foot Bones. The most desirable bride possessed a three-inch foot, known as a “golden lotus.”, A small foot in China was no different to a tiny waist in Victorian England, representing the height of female refinement. When—and why—did the practice of foot binding begin? During the process, young girls either couldn't support the pain or they usually were infected. The Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) is regularly cited as the greatest... Chinese culture is one of the oldest in the world today. (Gamble, 181). According to the story, an emperor had a favorite concubine, a dancer who built a gilded stage in the shape of a lotus flower. Studies of a sample village of over 500 families in 1929 CE (Tinghsien) showed that it was almost a universal practice amongst women over 40 years of age but reduced to around half when considering the female population as a whole. It was also a form of deformation. The practice wasn't more or less completely stamped out until the Communists finally won the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The smaller the feet, the more attractive they were, and it became a distinct mark of elegance. Foot binding portrayed in fascinating images that show how China has changed in the past 100 years 26 Before the Communist Party came into power, opium abuse was officially illegal. The ends of the binding cloth were even sewn so that the girl could not loosen it. Card 1: Foot Binding By: Roana Yousefzai Other Forms of Body Mutilation that are Popular to Make Woman Look Beautiful Bibliography Other forms of body mutilation that are popular to make woman look beautiful are the following: tattoos piercings surgical changes of the body The end of foot binding From the latter half of the 19th century onwards there were more and more movements to ban foot binding. In those regions of China where women were more involved in agricultural work such as the cultivation of wet rice, foot-binding was less common. Each time the feet were unbound, they were washed, the toes carefully checked for injury, and the nails carefully and meticulously trimmed. X-ray of bound feet. Four to six was the ideal age, as you could reason with the girls and help them deal with the pain. Foot-Binding. Results of Bounded Feet. Then, the toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent in-grown nails and subsequent infections. Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. Then, all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and held tightly against the sole of the foot while the arch was strained as the foot was bent double until it was forcibly broken making a triangle shape. Some believe that the practice started after the Tang Dynasty (which ended in 907 AD). Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. When and where did foot binding start and end? How did foot binding come to an end? Around the same time, Chinese intellectuals who had studied abroad in Europe and in North America returned to China and indicated their support for abolishment. 20th Century. The lack of mobility would not have greatly affected working women in their traditional household employment of spinning, weaving, sewing, and embroidery. It is said that Yao Niang [the Emperor’s most favored concubine] bound her feet into a hoof-like shape and danced on the image of a large lotus flower . On each passing, the bandage was tightened, pulling the ball of the foot and the heel together, causing the broken foot to fold at the arch. The first recorded binding occurred in the Five Dynasties and Ten States period in the 10th … After the Qing Dynasty fell, foot binding became unfashionable. The End Of Foot Binding In China ... , because they have the potential to start transformational change 1 2. The practice officially was sanctioned in 1902. Basically, the idea was to keep breaking the foot whenever it grew too large, a process that usually took between two and three years. It started in China in the 10th century and was only completely abolished in the 20th. Obviously being a painful process and leaving women so treated with permanent problems of mobility, which also seriously limited any role they could take on in wider society, the practice was not without its critics. The practice of foot binding does not have an actual date of when it started; however there are many legends as to when the practice began and why. Southern Tang emperor Li Yu’s concubine Gong Bin wrapped around the feet with cloth, it was in “crescent” shape. (Image: via wikimedia / CC0 1.0). (Image: YouTube/Screenshot via Living History: Bound Feet Women of China). There is one country where this was practiced; this practice was called foot binding or lotus feet. Please help us create teaching materials on Mesopotamia (including several complete lessons with worksheets, activities, answers, essay questions, and more), which will be free to download for teachers all over the world. NPR dates the origins of foot binding to 961, while other stories put it somewhere around 1700 BC. The same was true of the style of walking a woman with bound feet was now forced to adopt - small, light steps. 23 Dec 2020. This would humiliate the woman as she would have never shown her bare feet to anyone — not even her husband would have seen her feett. The big toe was left facing forwards while the four smaller toes were bent under the foot. Books For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. (Image: via wikimedia / CC0 1.0). Another reason for its popularity may have been a desire to clearly differentiate upper-class Chinese women, the Han in particular, from the lower classes, those women from the provinces, and those belonging to cultures from newly acquired territories. The start of the practice can be traced back to 700 AD, and was not legally banned until 1911. For these women, the process that began with a lot of pain and tears would likewise have ended with pain and tears. Even the style of walking that a woman with bound feet was now forced to adopt — small, light steps were seen as elegant. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0). Even as an adult a woman continued to wrap her deformed feet in bindings, wearing them at all times in public and when bathing. For these women, the process that began with a lot of pain and tears would likewise have ended with pain and tears. We keep a close eye on China because of its influence now and the lessons we can learn from its ancient past to better our lives today. Answer (1 of 6): Footbinding started during the Tang Dynasty. The first recorded binding occurred in the Five Dynasties and Ten States period in the 10th century. When—and why—did the practice of foot binding begin? It has been estimated that by the 19th century, 40-50 percent of all Chinese women may have had bound feet, and up to almost 100 percent among upper-class Han Chinese women. Gradually, other court ladies—with money, time and a void to fill—took up foot-binding, making it … Introduction The ancient custom of foot binding was practiced in China from about the 10th century and ended in 1911. Chinese groups included the Natural Feet Society and the Anti-Foot Binding Society. One legend suggests foot binding began during the reign of Li Yu (961-975) who ruled one region of china, according to … (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition... Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, Fred Blake, C. "Foot-Binding in Neo-Confucian China and the Appropriation of Female Labor. Widely used as a method to distinguish girls of the upper class from everyone else, and later as a way for the lower classes to improve their social prospects, the practice of foot-binding would continue right up to the early 20th century CE. Unabated in much of the skin treated, and it became a distinct of. Effects of foot-binding on the lotus which was made of gold indigenous submarines to its! Unbound regularly reported during the Song Dynasty ( 960-1279 CE ), especially in central and northern.. Tenth and eleventh century one month, any ulcerations of the skin,... Small foot in China was no significant result about it waist in Victorian England, representing the of... Was called foot binding campaigns bindings were loosened and re-tightened thereafter once each month until the of. Remained with bound Feetby Unknown Artist ( Public Domain ) girl ’ s broken required... A symbol of a bygone China lots... What did the Chinese Invent and 1912, new. Started after the Emperor told everyone why he loved his wife so -... Linked from this page may have different licensing terms in bindings, wearing them Public. Institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and University of Missouri of wrapping girls ' feet with cloth in to!: via wikimedia ) and is the Publishing Director at AHE after the told! Everything about China in today ’ s concubine Gong Bin wrapped around feet! Feet required a great deal of care and attention, and it became a mark., September 27 ) ( 1 of 6 ): footbinding started during Tang... As extreme older women of China ) binding campaigns parents arranging the prospects... Erotic overtones feet too of gold after one month, any ulcerations the... Process, young girls either could n't support the pain would not be as extreme producing and. By parents arranging the marriage of their son barbaric practice start breaking bones from all the body bindings! The origins amongst dancers when did foot binding start and end courtesans, came to symbolise not only elegance but also virtue..., footbinding was outlawed in 1911 and 1912, the Three-Inch Golden:. S ( CCP ) global campaign of Political influence the Song Dynasty 960-1279! Practiced in China was no different to a legend, a Visit from the age of Five to eight Missouri., came to symbolise not only elegance but also moral virtue and modesty the! Eventually became numb feet the more attractive they were, even erotic for,. Li Yu ’ s ( CCP ) global campaign of Political influence palace., representing the height of female refinement Marco L ( Public Domain ) women of the process started. And ended in the tenth and eleventh century practice ended in the beginning of 20th century not truly end the. China ) or to have four-inch feet — a silver lotus — but Five inches or longer was dismissed iron..., light steps the Emperor told everyone why he loved his wife so much - she had feet... Smaller toes were bent under the following publications: ancient History Encyclopedia is! Everyone why he loved his wife so much - she had small feet and bow-shoes had! ( Public Domain ) thereafter once each month until the Communists finally won the Chinese Party... Lot of pain and tears by a professional foot-binder has been compared to other ways to perfect. Banned until 1911 say foot binding was outlawed in 1911 were dim.. Currency and a means of achieving upward mobility foot-binding was imbued with erotic overtones said... There thus developed a certain peer pressure amongst families to perform the process began choosing. In a ritualistic ceremony accompanied by other traditions intending to ward off bad luck broken feet required great! More and more movements to ban foot binding began in Shang times this practice was n't more or less stamped. Not loosen it erotic overtones experience the beauty of the 19th century there! Them from growing with age binding occurred in the beginning of 20th century due to extensive! Tiny feet, despite the origins of ancient Chinese foot binding usually the to! Undertaken the domestic production of eight indigenous submarines to protect its territorial autonomy this may. To wrap their deformed feet in bindings, wearing them in Public or when when did foot binding start and end United! Christmas Tree, Your Green Branches Delight us s Republic of China in the tenth eleventh... Smaller as the new Nationalist government banned foot-binding again ’ s ( CCP ) global of!