Sep 6, 2009

In the Name of Beauty: 3 Inch Golden Lotus Feet

Today I am going to rant a little about the pain women in China had to endure for about a thousand year in the name of beauty and feminine charm. I often joke with gal pals that beauty is pain whenever our ultra high heels bother us after an hour or two. In the case for women with bound feet, beauty literally meant pain and sometimes death if infection occurred anytime during the 2 year binding process. The most desirable size was 3 inches. Recently I finished reading a couple of books, Peony in Love and Snow Flower and The Secret Fan by Lisa See which had me crying for the women who had to have their feet bind because they became more valuable in the eyes of society and their own family.
Men of old China found these tiny feet alluring. Due to uneven weight distribution, women walked in this swaying fashion which was considered charming and the epitome of feminism. Only women from the richest family had their feet bound which was another way to display family wealth. Although men found women in tiny Golden Lotus shoes desirable, they didn't really want to see their women's feet without all the wrapping and the lovely Golden Lotus shoes because the reality was those feet were deformed and smelly. Perhaps if those men had to look at them daily, this horrible tradition would cease a lot sooner.
*image of red Golden Lotus slipper via travelblog.org


Young girls would begin their tortuous foot binding process around age of 4 or 5 years old. Their 4 little toes would break and bend toward the heel, leaving only the big toe for support. Arches were also broken to create a foot similar to a lotus bud. Infection and death were not uncommon among these girls. Usually mothers, a female family member or a professional foot binder would perform this deed. In wealthier households, clothe bindings were changed daily and became tighter progressively to achieve smaller feet. In the less wealthy family, bindings were changed 2 to 4 times weekly. Looking at the woman in the above picture, how can anyone do that to a child as they screamed in pain?
*above showed an image of a caste of a Golden Lotus foot (image via hmc.org)
*Above is a X-ray comparison between a healthy foot vs. a Golden Lotus foot (image via Wikipedia)
I for one am very glad this horrible tradition is no longer in practice. I am thankful as gals we are allowed and encouraged to pursue our dreams and goals. Next time, when I joke beauty is pain, I will remember all the gals who have lived in pain all their lives because of tradition and thank my luck star I am not one of them. What other tortuous traditions are out there in the name of beauty?

31 comments:

  1. I totally agree... this practice is too inhuman, the torture that the little girls have to go through all for the sake of beauty and status.

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  2. wow.. yes i've heard of this but didn't know much about it. great post! x

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  3. I agree with my dear!

    X♥X♥

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  4. wow what an informative post! i had never seen what bound feet actually looked like. how inhumane!

    x

    www.tittees.blogspot.com

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  5. Saw that once in History Channel and all I could think of was "OUCH". I didnt liked it at all. For me, it is wrong.

    Anyway its funny when U said that beauty is pain because I said that too when I was getting my braces lol.

    >>> Rebecca Rose
    rebeccaroseilican.blogspot.com

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  6. I have never heard of this before. It is disgusting. How could anyone do that to their child?

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  7. i dont want have foot like that, that's not a beauty, that is a persecution!! there's is a tradition in my village (not about beauty), if a woman have a boy and girl twins baby, her baby must be isolated in a small cottage for a few weeks and no milk. i dunno what the meaning of this tradition, this is wrong.

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  8. Gosh it is utterly awful - the picture of the big toe and the others are just yuk!
    I have small feet and people use to joke about my feet being bound - thankfully not. I hadn't realise how torturous it was!

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  9. More than anything feet binding was a practice of sexual fetish. Chinese men found the foot, not the shoe, nor even the woman, the object of sexual desire.
    Totally sick.

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  10. Hi,

    Those pictures are harsh... What a horrible thing. I totally agree with Belle de Ville's comment above.

    Still, some countries in Africa also have other sorts of horrific practices against women's bodies. All those tradions should be condemned.

    See you soon.

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  11. There are many horrific practices done in the name of fashion or tradition. I have tiny feet and can not imagine squeezing mine down to 3 inches.

    And when I started reading this, I first thought of Africa and the documentary I saw about what they do to young girls there.

    Then not long ago the US women used to corset themselves so tight it moved internal organs around. Or even had rib cages removed to do it.

    I'm just happy to live in this age and to live in this country. Where there is more freedom of choice for women.

    Great post Savvy!

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  12. It was a horrible thing for those poor girls. I am glad we don't have to do this now. I have also read about traditions in Africa which are just terrible. We should respect what we are borne with.

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  13. A horrible practice, I agree.

    xoxox,
    CC

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  14. I've always known this to be an incredible cruel practice but seeing your diagrams and those pictures really make it more apparent. It's pretty sad and horrific to see.

    So which of these books were your favourite? I'd love to give them a read!

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  15. OMG, this was a horrible thing to do to those poor girls.
    Hope you're having a great long weekend

    xoxo

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  16. Mutilating a kid's feet to prove their social status, and ensure a good marriage... So sad really.
    Nowadays I see young girls (11 or 12 year olds) going to the plastic surgeon to get their noses or chins, or eyes done...

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  17. This is a great post. It's important for us to be educated on these topics. I learned about this practice awhile ago and I'm just so very sad for the girls and women who had to endure this. There are many painful practices done around the world to girls. Thank God a lot of these things have ended. These things exsist mostly because of ignorance and lack of education. Thanks for writing about this one.

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  18. Oh my goodness! What a horrible tradition! I've never heard about this before. I'm so glad women have freedom and rights to do what they like to their today! xxoxoxoxo

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  19. This tradition is so cruel and disgusting. I sometimes think of these little girls when I find myself complaining about uncomfortable high heels or something like that, and feel ridiculous... Unlike most of us, they're not exactly in a situation where they can choose whether to massacre their feet or not.

    Thanks for posting this!

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  20. Such an interesting yet horrible tradition. I have a co-worker whose grandmother, who is still alive, had her feet bound. She can't walk anymore mostly because of age though. So glad women finally rebelled against the custom.

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  21. I remember being horrified the first time I read about this. In fact, I still am. Wow. I'm also amazed that the tradition continued for such a long time before the practice was stopped.

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  22. Savvy.. that is just absolutely horrific... = (

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  23. That is so terrible... I mean, I"ve heard about it before, and saw the shoes they used to wear when I visited the Shoe museum here in Toronto. But everytime I think about all the women that had to suffer for something so stupid, it just brings tears to my eyes:(

    xoxo
    Mimi

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  24. I really don't know what they found sexy about deformed feet or tiny shoes...
    great post!

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  25. I saw one after reading "The Good Earth" and visiting Pearl S. Buck's house. I also watched a video at a book club after reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

    Grossness itself >.<

    I feel very sorry for women of that era.

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  26. oh yeah when this is on the national geographic i am always watching, mu nose on the tv everytime it's on.

    wow! i feel sorry for them. There are still some of them living right now right?

    anyway i always feel that we're all still like them till now. With our sky high shoes. They're pretty and it hurts and walking on them for hours feels like foot binding itself right?

    But am really glad this tradition is over.

    BTW i am ugly by the old China standards. I have HUGe feet. hahaahah!

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  27. it was so horrible...so horrible.

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  28. What a sad practice. :( I always wondered what their feet look like uncovered. Now I know. Not only did they see it as a form of beauty, I think it was a way to keep men in control since the women couldn't go very far.

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  29. I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool..
    謝謝你的文章分享,請你有空到我

    參觀,Thanks

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  30. When I was in my teens I wore 3 inch heels a lot. It didn't hurt so I didn't worry, but I should have because now, at 70, I have so much trouble with my fallen arches, bad ankles, and painful feet.

    The woman who said we are not so much different from the old Chinese was right on. Surgery for young girls on their faces and breasts? That's insane. Surgeons who would do such surgery should be unlicensed immediately.

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