Foot Binding

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,007
Likes
13,256
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#1
I can't locate any substantive posts - much less a thread - on this practice, so I'm starting a dedicated thread.

Foot binding was the custom of applying tight binding to the feet of young girls to modify the shape and size of their feet. It was practiced in China from the Tang dynasty until the early 20th century, and bound feet were considered a status symbol as well as a mark of beauty. Foot binding was a painful practice and significantly limited the mobility of women, resulting in lifelong disabilities for most of its subjects. Feet altered by binding were called lotus feet.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding

Foot-Bind-ca-1900.jpg

See Also:

Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium
Despite the pain, millions of Chinese women stood firm in their devotion to the tradition
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-footbinding-persisted-china-millennium-180953971/
 
Last edited:

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,007
Likes
13,256
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#2
The study of the practice's skeletal evidence and effects is a relatively recent development.

Ming Dynasty Skeletons Reveal Secrets of Foot-Binding
Foot-binding was practiced for about 1,000 years in China. The memory of this practice is preserved in historical documents, shoes found in graves of the elite and the testimonies of a dwindling number of women with bound feet who survive today.

But only in recent years have archaeologists looked at skeletons with bound feet to learn more about the women who experienced this extreme form of body modification.

Elizabeth Berger, a postdoctoral fellow in Chinese studies at the University of Michigan, had been working on an archaeological excavation at the site of Yangguanzhai near Xi'an in China's Shaanxi Province. The archaeological team, led by Liping Yang of the Shaanxi Archaeological Academy, was primarily interested in a Neolithic village buried there; they unexpectedly found an overlaying cemetery from a much later era, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and they salvaged the graves. ...

"I was looking at the bones and I noticed that there was something very strange about the feet," Berger told Live Science. "My first thought was that it might be foot-binding, and I started to look into it and found that at that point there hadn't been many publications on what the bones of foot-bound feet actually look like, although there was a lot of research on the history of it." ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/64849-foot-bound-skeletons-china.html
 

GNC

King-Sized Canary
Joined
Aug 25, 2001
Messages
27,157
Likes
11,732
Points
284
#3
(Transplanted from head binding thread ... )

... just musing here, but are there any examples of footbinding in cultures unrelated to Ancient China?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,007
Likes
13,256
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#4
(Transplanted from head binding thread ... )
... just musing here, but are there any examples of footbinding in cultures unrelated to Ancient China?
I don't recall ever seeing any reference to foot binding being done anywhere but China. As far as I know, the practice was peculiar to China.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,007
Likes
13,256
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#5
This 2013 Atlantic article provides an overview of the practice's history and includes an interview with a scholar and author of a book on the subject:

https://www.theatlantic.com/china/a...liar-history-of-foot-binding-in-china/279718/

The scholar (Wang Ping) seems to have been personally familiar with the practice in her family, and even attempted to undertake herself as a child. The book is:

Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China
2002
by Wang Ping

https://www.amazon.com/Aching-Beaut...UTF8&qid=1379357448&sr=8-3&keywords=wang+ping
 

GNC

King-Sized Canary
Joined
Aug 25, 2001
Messages
27,157
Likes
11,732
Points
284
#6
I don't recall ever seeing any reference to foot binding being done anywhere but China. As far as I know, the practice was peculiar to China.
Was foot binding performed for reasons connected to head binding? Were there Chinese Ancients with tiny feet and conical heads?
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,007
Likes
13,256
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#7
Was foot binding performed for reasons connected to head binding? Were there Chinese Ancients with tiny feet and conical heads?
No, or at least not to my knowledge. The foot binding only dates back to the 10th century (AD; CE). If there were any Chinese subjected to both forms of binding they wouldn't be ancient.
 

GNC

King-Sized Canary
Joined
Aug 25, 2001
Messages
27,157
Likes
11,732
Points
284
#8
Were any other body parts bound, do you know?
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,007
Likes
13,256
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#9
Were any other body parts bound, do you know?
Depending on how liberal an interpretation of "binding" one accepts, the Kayan Lahwi women of Myanmar (the ones who wear brass rings to yield the appearance of elongated necks*) come to mind.

This is similar in the senses that the procedure starts in childhood, it involves attaching restrictive apparatus encircling the body part being shaped, it continues into or through adulthood, and it results in a permanent body modification.

*NOTE: As I understand it, this procedure doesn't actually lengthen the neck. Instead, it compresses the collar bones and ribcage downward to give the illusion the neck is abnormally long. Assuming this is true, it provides another parallel with head and foot binding - i.e., the compressive distortion of bone structures.

Off the top of my (unbound ... ) head, that's the closest analogue I can nominate.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
12,007
Likes
13,256
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
#11
That crossed my mind, but ...

My understanding was that the corset-induced permanent ribcage distortions / injuries were an unintended (or at least unacknowledged) side effect from discontinuous short-term periods of binding, whereas foot / head distortions were the planned outcome of long-term continuous binding tactics.
 
Top