footbinding (15)

The unusual Chinese practice of foot binding began during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Although the tradition was officially banned by the Republic of China in 1911, the practice continued for quite some time in rural areas.

Foot binding was initially a rather mild and harmless practice, performed by women attempting replicating the look of imperial concubine practices – who danced with their feet tightly wrapped in silk. But, by the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), feet were forcibly bound so tightly and so early in life that crippling deformations resulted. Due to the fact that these women were deprived of autonomy and required constant assistance, foot binding became something of a status symbol.

Beginning as early as age five, the process was long and painful. Due to the tight binding four toes on each foot would break and become highly deformed within a year. Eventually a high arch was formed; the foot would become concave and resemble a ‘lotus blossom’. The ideal total foot length was to be no longer than 10 cm (4 in).

The Xiaohuayuan Shoe Factory in Shanghai still occasionally takes custom tiny shoe orders to accommodate the aged population affected by foot binding. Quite recently, a 90-year-old woman in Shanghai received a new pair of shoes. The shoes were a New Year’s gift from her son and daughter-in-law.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.


  • Reply December 3, 2007


    that is incredibly sad.

  • Reply December 17, 2008


    foot binding started in late Tang dynasty, but it’s more well known during Song dynasty….i know growing up i always thought it started during Song…at the beginning it was only practiced by the rich upper class, then it became something all the girls would do because “no men would want to marry a girl with big feet”, somehow a symbol of beauty (more like keeping women in place).

    it’s really sad…and it’s a problem when it comes to hygene because if i remember correctly, they have to unbind their feet once a year or so to “clean it”, there’s a specific procedure for that too. they usually get infected and whatnot. those women pretty much cannot walk on their own…so during wartimes those women tend to get left behind because they cannot run.

    my grandmother almost went thru that (she was born 1920 in a well off family), her mother tried to bind her feet, but it was too painful so my grandmother took them off and cried. she actually go away with it because she was spoiled and had things her way.

  • Reply February 25, 2009


    It would be interesting to know if there were different methods used for binding. If you look at various pictures, some look like the feet were sort of bent in half, others look like the toes were wrapped around the bottom of the foot. Just curious.

  • Reply February 25, 2010


    It has been recently speculated that foot binding began when some royal children were born with club feet. To keep this from being seen as a deformity, other royal members of the household were to bind their daughter’s feet. An intersting perspective . . .

  • Reply May 7, 2010

    Proud Sasquatch

    I’d be Bigfoot there. But it’s all good they keep me grounded. God bless clodhoppers! :)

  • Reply February 20, 2011

    namae nanka

    now they wear heels, we have come a long way…

  • Reply March 5, 2012

    susan cole

    it took a sick minded bunch of idiots to ever think this foot binding made beauty…anyone who would literally deform a young child for this ridicolus reason should have been beaten to their death. i thank God i was born in the u.s. and not in one of these awful foreign countries with their sick practices. wish those women back then would have had the courage to bound parts on the male, then they would not have been so keen on the female human torchure and to think the mothers & grandmothers could do that to their blood…oh it makes me nauseous…

    • Reply October 12, 2012


      I’m sorry but you are sounding a bit ignorant. Women at this time would never dare try to “bind parts of the male” they had absolutely no rights. Saying anything to that affect probably would’ve had them killed or banished. Think of it like this, yes it was a cruel practice, but the mother’s were worried for their daughters. The men were so ignorant that if a womans feet weren’t bound they probably would never be married at a certain time period. If they women were not married and gave birth to kids( mainly sons) they were considered useless. For in those times women did not have careers their job was mainly to please men and raise children. I hope that clears things up for you….and yes you were born in the us and not “a sick foreign country” the us who treated people of other races like cattle. Raping them and killing them for no reason. The us that put Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Don’t think that the us is so much better then other places. Ignorance has no one country, race, sex, orientation or anything. In europe people were killed amd tortured for having a different religion, they also put humans on exhibit take the hottenot venus for example. In some pacific islands they practiced cannibalism. In ancient south america human sacrafice.

      Ignorance is a human characteristic that jas improved over time and all humans have risen from the dark ages …so please don’t be nationalistic.

  • Reply May 14, 2012

    Cassandra Morningstar

    We in the US aren’t 100% innocent of disfiguring people for no reason. Not to get into a debate, but what about male circumcision? It might have a little better of a justification (supposedly preventing cervical cancer) than foot binding, but still with proper hygiene a circumcision is not medically necessary.

Leave a Reply