Uyen Tran *Curation project – Ancient Chinese foot binding

2 May , 2017  


  • Originated from upper-class court dancers in the 10th century
  • Ancient Chinese believed this is a symbol of beauty and higher status: foot binding affected their ability to walk, this is a sign of wealth since they didn’t need to do labor work
  • Foot binding showed how ancient Chinese society viewed women: submissive, dependent and unproductive

How it’s done

  • Foot binding usually starts when young girls reach the age of 4 to 6. The fact that young bones are soft makes it easier to bound and rebound
  • Girls had their feet soaked in a mixture of herbs and animal blood so the toes were easily curled up. The binder would tighten their feet with bandages, making the toes and heel closer and causing them to break
  • A special type of shoes were worn to keep the feet in shape

How it affects daily life

  • Having a small bound feet was the only way to marry into a wealthy family.
  • A perfect wife would have a three-inched foot (golden lotus) or a four-inched (silver lotus). The larger her feet, the lower the chance of getting married.
  • It was banned in mid 19th century and died down in the 20th century due to protests around the country


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