What is it like living with the effects of Chinese foot binding?
The first recorded binding occurred in the Five Dynasties and Ten States period in the 10th century. According to the story, an emperor had a favorite concubine, a dancer who built a gilded stage in the shape of a lotus flower. When she bound her feet into a hoof-like shape and danced on the lotus, the practice became very fashionable; after all, she was the emperor’s favorite concubine and the other concubines attempted to imitate her in order to gain the emperor’s favor. So foot binding started with the royal court and then spread throughout China, beginning in the south of the country and soon reaching the north.
In the 12th century, foot binding had become much more widespread, and by the early Qing Dynasty (in the mid-17th century), every girl who wished to marry had her feet bound. The only people who didn’t bind their feet were the very poor, ethnic Hakka people, and women who worked in fishing because they had needed to have normal feet in order to balance themselves on boats.
Before you flinch and conclude ‘OMG why would anyone do that?!’, consider lots of other widely accepted beauty practices, either historical or contemporary. People who participate do so in the context of what is socially acceptable and normal, which of course, changes over time.
A wanderlusting intellectual millennial on a journey to let my curiosity get the best of me everywhere I go. I enjoy traveling and being immersed in the unfamiliar. I love cultural anthropology, urban planning, and pretending to know other languages. A dancer by training and a social scientist by dreaming; born in Washington DC, raised in Maryland, eight years a New Yorker, and a serial hobbyist. My current obsession is hoola hooping. I even do gigs and take my hoop when I travel. Fo'reals.