Last Glimpses of Foot Binding Tradition

Women have always been subject to senseless beauty norms from time immemorial. From tight corsets, neck wiring to feet binding, our fellow sex mates has suffered it all. Talk about the so-called perfect figure and colour and hair and skin, in the 21st century; all the sex’s are facing the problem of body shaming.

Amidst all this, an age-old Chinese tradition is going to be lost soon (for the good).  Foot Binding was a tradition in China in which the women had to bind their foot so as to stop further growth thereby breaking bones. It was a social status symbol possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century). Eventually, it spread to all social classes.

 

Apparently, Emperor Li Yu’s concubine Yao Niang had done her “foot binding” to perform a dance on a lotus on the point of her toes. It turned out to be so graceful that girls all around started imitating her so as to be able to dance as she did. Slowly this turned into a strict tradition where it was necessary to have bound feet to get married.

 

It has been 103 years since the tradition got banned but a lot of women still suffer from it’s effects. Jo Farrel tracked down these women and photographed the age-old tradition which is breathing its last air.

Si Yin

Foot Binding foot binding

“Si Yin’s feet were the most distorted that I have seen. To me, they no longer look like feet – they have taken the shape of the shoes. Her feet had never been unbound, and she had managed to keep them hidden.” – Jo Farrel

 

Huo Guan Yu

hua guan yu foot binding
Huo Guan Yu’s sister taught her how to bind her feet when she was six years old, and they remained bound until 2010. When asked  why she had decided to unbind her feet after so long, she said that it was because she now needs help with the binding and no one does it correctly.

 

 

Ma Zhen é,

ma zehn foot binding
 She had her feet bound at seven years old. She cried so much that her grandfather complained, but he could not stop it. She unbound her feet at 30, as women would be fined if they didn’t.

 

It bled, it got infected, it deformed their feet, but they still followed the tradition. This is the level of insanity and firmness that a human being can possess. Let us use this talent for something good this time. Let us break free from the clutches of old painful traditions.

 

 

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