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Chinese Foot Binding

In the 10th   century, in China, legend says a prince began the practice of foot binding because he loved the small “Lily Feet” of his concubine. The tiny foot became the mark of a wealthy and well-born woman.  For over 1000 years, rich women had their feet bounded. The new Republic banned foot binding in 1912, and the custom finally died out in the 1930’s. 


Foot binding began between the ages of four and seven.  A strip of bandage ten feet long and two inches wide was wrapped tightly around the foot.  The four small toes were broken and bent under the sole.  The arch of the foot was bowed to make the foot shorter.

The perfectly bound foot was only 3″ long. Women who got their feet bound could not walk, run, or dance.     They just sat around and said, “Ouch!”


The bandage was tightened each day and the foot was put into smaller and smaller shoes.  
In two years, the process was finished. By then, the foot was useless for walking very far.

Bound feet had to be washed and cared for daily.  If toe nails grew into the instep, infection could set in.  If the bindings were too tight, gangrene and blood poisoning could occur.  The bound foot was painful and tender forever.  It often had an unpleasant smell.

 X-ray of the normal 
and the bound foot

Beverley Jackson. Splendid Slippers,

 A slipper for a bound foot.