Je n’en connais pas de faciles, je n’en connais que de fragiles

The practice of foot binding began in the Sung dynasty (AD 960-1280) in China, reportedly to imitate an imperial concubine who was required to dance with her feet bound.’ By the 12th century, the practice was widespread and more severe: feet were bound so tightly and so early in life that women were unable to dance and had difficulty walking. When a girl was about 3 years old, all but the first toe on each foot were broken and the feet bound with cloth strips that were tightened over the course of 2 years to keep the feet shorter than 10 cm [~4 inches] and to bend the sole into extreme concavity. Foot binding ceased in the 20th century [banned in 1912] with the end of imperial dynasties and the increasing influence of Western fashion.

{ Public Health Briefs | PDF }

In Chinese culture, bound feet were considered highly erotic. When walking, women with bound feet were forced to bend their knees and balance on their heels; the resultant unsteady, swaying movement was attractive to many men. It was also believed that the gait of a woman with bound feet would strengthen her vaginal muscles.

Although Qing Dynasty sex manuals list 48 different ways of playing with womens’ bound feet, many men preferred not to see uncovered feet, so they were concealed within tiny, elaborately embroidered “lotus shoes” and wrappings. […] This concealment from the man’s eye was considered sexually appealing in itself, though it had the practical grounding that an uncovered foot would give off a foul odour due to chronic fungus infections and potential gangrene. […]

bound feet limited a woman’s mobility to such an extent that she was largely restricted to her home and could not venture far without the help of watchful servants. She was rendered almost totally dependent on her menfolk, which appealed to male fantasies of ownership. A woman with bound feet was also seen as a desirable wife because she was assumed to be obedient and uncomplaining.

{ Dance’s Historical Miscellany | Continue reading }

Confucius lived before the Christian Jesus is said to have been born […] Adeline Yen Mah asserts that, “every Chinese person wears a Confucian thinking cap … just as foot binding once bound women‟s feet, Confucian’s teachings have quietly and surely bound women’s lives for centuries.” Confucianism was at its peak centuries before Ming Dynasty rule; […] Confucianism revolved around the belief that a man was the leader and a woman‟s priority was to be obedient to that man […]

Females in Chinese society were regarded as menial entities; continually demoralized, degraded, humiliated, ignored—which created intrinsic silence. The silence was second nature and women simply accepted mistreatment because they did not know anything different. This was a paradoxical situation since women were a remarkably prevalent motif in Ming Dynasty paintings. A woman could speak eloquently, sing, and play music, as shown in paintings, yet their individuality was stripped away

{ The Callous Fate of Chinese Women During the Ming Dynasty (2011) | PDF }