These Pictures Show Us The Painful Legacy Of Chinese Foot Binding

The Chinese practice finally died out in the 1950s but that doesn't stop the women still living with it from suffering.

Chinese Foot Binding Was An Awful Way To Suppress Women

by Jess Commons |
Published on

Last night on Imgur, user Tonnia uploaded this album all about the old Chinese ‘art’ of foot binding – shocking the picture sharing website’s users.


The practice, as far as anyone knows, started in the 11th century during the Song Dynasty and is said to have become popular when one of emperor Li Yu’s concubines was forced to bind her feet ‘into the shape of the crescent moon’ and then perform a dance. Other upper class women then followed suit.

How did the process of foot binding go? When a little girl’s foot was still developing, it would be soaked in a warm concoction, her toenails trimmed back as short as possible before her four smaller toes were folded under her foot, broken and bound. The resulting feet were often 3-4 inches in length.

The process often took up to two years to complete and when finished, severely restricted the movement of many of the recipients. For upper class women this was considered not to be a problem as it showed they didn’t have to do manual labour. However many scholars also say that it was a way of restricting a woman as she was, post-foot binding, entirely dependent on others (men) for her welfare and couldn’t travel far to get into any (gasp) trouble.

During the 1800s, nearly 100% of upper class women were estimated to have undergone foot binding.

The practise largely died out in the early part of the 20th century but, in more rural areas, foot binding was found to be practised up until the 1950s. Last year, photographer Jo Farrell released a book of her work photographing the last living women in China to have undergone the practise. In 1999, the last factory to make ‘lotus shoes’ – the teeny tiny pointy doll-like shoes that women were once expected to fit their feet in, closed.

You might also be interested in:

Abortion Is Illegal In Brazil: That Doesn't Mean It's Not Happeneing, It Means It's Not Safe

'I Teach Young, Male Refugees In Germany - And The Headlines Don't Tell The Whole Story'

Charity Offers Free Abortion Pills To Women With Zika Virus

Follow Jess on twitter @Jess_Commons

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us