Thursday, April 16, 2009


My Mom just finished reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for discussion with her book group. The novel discusses foot-binding among the Chinese, so I decided to research that topic this morning. Here are the gory details:
  • The feet of girls between the ages of 4 and 7 were tightly bandaged with the 4 small toes forced under the sole, which arched the foot, making it both shorter and narrower.
  • The 10' bandage was tightened daily, with the goal of reducing the size of the foot to fit in a 3" or 4" shoe.
  • The excruciating process took two years - with side effects including infection, corns, and possible gangrene - and rendered the feet essentially useless.
  • Foot-binding became a prerequisite for marriage and was a means of restraining women, since they were largely confined to the home and unable to run away from beatings.
  • Bound feet came to symbolize chastity, but also became a major erotic zone.
  • The feet of a billion Chinese women - all but the lowest class - were bound over a 1,000-year period, beginning in the 8th century and finally outlawed in 1911.
  • The first anti-foot binding society was formed in Shanghai in 1895 on the grounds that the practice was exceedingly painful and hindered a woman's education.
I learned most of these facts from an essay that is not complimentary of the practice, but cautions us to understand it in cultural context. There are several nonfiction books about Chinese foot-binding, including Cinderella's Sisters and Splendid Slippers, and NPR had a segment about it on Morning Edition in 2007. Ouch.


  1. nasty no ofense

  2. so sad that women let this happen for so long. mothers did this to their daughters!!!


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