Chinese Culture >> Chinese Society, Traditions >> Chinese Foot Binding
For thousands of years, young Chinese females
who wanted to look beautiful practiced a painful custom that left them with
deformed and disfigured feet. That deadly beauty secret was known as foot
binding and it crippled many innocent kids.
Foot binding first emerged in the 10th century and was done in girls aged 6 or younger. It was initially practiced in the wealthiest parts of China but later became so popular that only the poorest or those who worked in the fields could not do it. The reason was simple: field work required footwork; foot binding made the simple act of walking difficult.
"In Chinese foot binding, young girls' feet, usually at age 6 but often earlier, were wrapped in tight bandages so that they could not grow and develop normally; they would, instead, break and become highly deformed, not growing past 4-6 inches (10-15 centimeters). As the girl reached adulthood, her feet would remain small and dysfunctional, prone to infection, paralysis, and muscular atrophy," according to the editors of Wikipedia.
The early Chinese equated tiny feet with beauty and bound feet were considered sexy. They were seen as mysterious and attractive, and a symbol of wealth and power since women with bound feet couldn't work. The erotic effect of "lotus hooks" as the bound feet were called, remained as long as they were hidden. That was expected since the feet were severely deformed and exposing them would likely elicit shock and sympathy.
To achieve the desired effect, a mother or grandmother would bind her daughter's or granddaughter's feet when she was around 4 - 7 years old. This was often done during the winter months before the arch of the feet were fully developed.
"First, each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood. This concoction caused any necrotized flesh to fall off. Then her toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent ingrowths and subsequent infections. To prepare her for what was to come next, the girl's feet were delicately massaged. Silk or cotton bandages, ten feet long and two inches wide, were prepared by soaking them in the same blood and herb mix as before. Each of the toes were then broken and wrapped in the wet bandages, which would constrict when drying, and pulled tightly downwards toward the heel. There may have been deep cuts made in the sole to facilitate this. This ritual would be repeated every two days, with fresh bindings. Every time the bandages were rebound they would be pulled tighter making this process continually painful," Wikipedia said.
Foot binding was banned in 1911 but its effects haunted many Chinese women for years. Some women's feet grew ½ - 1 inch after being unwrapped and they suffered less severe deformities. But a few elderly Chinese women continue to suffer from the effects of foot binding to this day.
"The most common ailment of bound feet was infection. Toenails would become ingrown and could lead to flesh rotting, occasionally causing the toes to drop off. Disease inevitably followed infection meaning that death could result from foot binding. Occasionally, the ball of the foot would grow directly into the heel. As the girl grew older, she was more at risk from medical problems. Older women were more likely to break hips and other bones in falls and were less able to stand up from sitting," Wikipedia said.
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About the Author:
Janet Martin is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premiere online news magazine http://www.thearticleinsiders.com