Bound foot shoes

To wear these tiny shoes, a woman changed the shape of her feet by the process of foot binding, a centuries-old practice among women in China. The desired result of foot binding was “delicate” feet, which connoted beauty, modesty and status, and were referred to as “golden lotus” feet, or jin lian.


Collection Connections 

  • Bound Foot Shoe

    Bound Foot Shoe

    Asia: East Asia, China

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  • Bound Foot Shoe

    Bound Foot Shoe

    Asia: East Asia, China

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  • Bound Foot Shoe

    Bound Foot Shoe

    Asia: East Asia, China, Northeast China, Shandong, Wangxian

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Why do the soles of these shoes look clean and unworn?

responded: Apr 2, 2013

Posted by Dana (VIC 224 Student)

149
Recommend this Response
Think your feet are too big or too small? These nineteenth century Chinese bound foot shoes were custom made by women for women. They belong to the Chinese tradition of foot binding which is an act that occurs in a girl’s youth whereby her feet are soaked and then bandaged tightly, curving the toes beneath the soles of her feet to produce the shape of a lotus flower—a Chinese symbol for beauty. This act was done to ensure that the girl’s feet remained miniature for her whole life, promising her a wealthy husband, elevated status, and elegant grace. This specific pair of bound foot shoes is made mainly of silk and is adorned with multicoloured symbolic appliques. The pale blue colour indicates that they were likely made for a middle-aged woman and the repetitive lotus flower design speaks of the beauty foot binding strives to achieve. This tradition died out in the early twentieth century; there remain women with bound feet as well as those who have unbound them. Though it is an admittedly agonizing process, the tradition is widely respected by many Chinese women who underwent the process.

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