Why Bind Feet? • Marriage-ability ~ mothers wanted to ensure the best match for their daughters, and women were expected to have bound feet • Sensuality ~ feet binding gave women a “lilting walk” desired by men. • Confucian ideas about women ~ Their ideal station was as a mother in the home. It is no accident that foot binding became prevalent in the late Tang Dynasty, AFTER the attack on Buddhism as foreign influence • Sign of wealth ~ wealthy women bound their feet to a VERY small size and needed servants to help with daily tasks and a sedan chair if they were walking more than a very short distance.
Process • Wait until about age 6-8, so the arch can properly develop • Begin in winter, so your feet are cold and numb and the pain is less • Cut back toenails to prevent in-grown nails and infection • Fold 4 smaller toes under, wrap in 10 foot long silk cloth, pulling them toward the heel • Continue every few days for several years. Toes and instep will eventually break. • Result: Super tiny feet – the best length was 3 inches (the “golden lotus”) but most were between 4-5 inches, as middle and lower-class women needed to be able to walk • FYI: Keep feet bandaged and in pretty silken shoes. Feng Xun is recorded as stating, "If you remove the shoes and bindings, the aesthetic feeling will be destroyed forever.” <<Wow. Duh.>>
Effects In the essay Painful Words About Lotus Hooks by Chueh Fei-Sheng, he discusses his own wife’s foot binding experience and the frequent pain and infections she suffered: “I was from an average family, where daughters-in-law had to draw water from the well and pound the mortar. My wife, with tiny and weak feet, couldn’t stand the heavy labor. Whenever the foot infections caused her to have to sweep the floors on her knees, (as a type of soothing ointment) I placed bean curd peelings or vegetable leaves on her foot bindings. At such times, I couldn’t help thinking of how evil and injurious this custom was; suddenly my fondness for the golden lotus came to an end.”