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March 8, 2014
Table of Contents
1 Introduction
Foot binding


Image:BoundFeet.jpg|thumb|right|250px|The bound feet of an adult woman

Foot binding (纏足, 包腳, 裹小腳, or 紮腳) is a custom practiced in China for more than one thousand years and finally discontinued in the early 20th century. Some, such as Sigmund Freud, consider the practice fetishistic, as it was done for aesthetic reasons. Young girls' foot | feet, usually at age 6 but sometimes earlier, were wrapped in tight bandages so they could not grow normally, would break and become deformed as they reached adulthood. The feet would remain small and dysfunctional, prone to infection, paralysis, and muscular atrophy.

The practice of foot binding began during the Song Dynasty (960-1279)|Song Dynasty, around 960. According to legend, women were bound in this way to replicate an imperial concubine who was required to dance with her feet bound. By the 12th century, the practice had become widespread and severe— girls' feet were bound so tightly and early in life that, as adults, they were unable to walk significant distances, essentially crippled and deprived of all autonomy. Foot binding was a status symbol, since only the wealthy could afford to keep women unproductive. The Hongwu Emperor of China|Hongwu Emperor's consort, born of humble origin, had normal feet (considered unattractive by the standards of the culture). Emperor Hongwu killed the neighbours of those who mocked him.

If a girl's feet were bound in this custom, beginning in infancy, four toes on each foot would break by age 3; the first ("big toe") sometimes remained intact. The feet were desired not to grow any larger than 10 cm (4 in). Bound feet would bend, becoming so concave they were sometimes described as "lotus hooks". Girls would suffer intense pain throughout the binding process.

Social history appears to indicate that the custom was much more prevalent in north China than in south China, and particularly in family engaged in wet-patty agriculture.

In 1911, the Republic of China government banned foot binding, a practice considered barbaric by other societies. According to a study conducted by the UCSF | University of California at San Francisco, "As the practice waned, some girls' feet were released after initial binding, leaving less severe deformities." However, some effects of foot binding are permanent: some elderly Chinese women today suffer from disabilities related to bound feet.

During the Communism | Communist rebellions of the 20th century, victims of foot binding were, in some cases, further abused. As symbols of a past era, as well as members of the overthrown upper class, they were often beaten by the revolutionaries, though this practice was illegal.

Foot binding is rarely, if ever, practiced today. All modern societies would treat the behavior as child abuse and punish it accordingly. It is commonly cited by sociology | sociologists and anthropology | anthropologists as an example where an extreme deformity (by the standards of both modern societies and from a medical viewpoint) can be viewed as beauty, and also where immense human suffering can be inflicted in the pursuit of a beauty standard.

While bound feet were considered beautiful by some men, a misconception is that they found the deformed foot, in the flesh, erotic. Most often, the men would never see the woman's feet, as they were concealed within tiny "lotus shoes". Feng Hsun is recorded as stating, "If you remove the shoes and bindings, the aesthetic feeling will be destroyed forever." Indeed, from a non-Chinese standpoint, the unnatural deformement seen in the bare feet of a foot-bound woman can be highly disturbing.

Photographs of bound feet— grotesque medical curiosities by today's standard— are featured on some shock sites.

  • Foot fetishism






  • Map of Geographic Distribution of Footbinding


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Foot binding".

Last Modified:   2005-04-13

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