A popular old Chinese tradition was foot binding. Also, called as ‘lotus feet’ this tradition was borne out of erotic undertones amongst the elites but gradually became a status symbol. Needless to say, it has been recognized to be one of the most gruesome practices against women. The tradition of foot binding has now boiled down to last surviving women with bound feet. But here is the story behind it.
The roots of foot binding
Inspired by a 10th century court dancer named Yao Niang, as mentioned earlier, the tradition has erotic undertones. By binding her foot into a shape of a new moon, she enchanted Emperor Li Yu by dancing in a glorious six foot golden lotus on her toes.
Just like how smaller waists were a symbol of elitism among the English women, so was smaller feet. The smaller the feet, the better marriage proposals for the girl. Similarly, the most tiniest, i.e., 3 inches, was considered lotus feet.
The Process of foot binding
The process began as early as when the girl child is between 4-6 years of age. As brutal as it may sound, first the feet were immersed in hot water followed by clipping of the toe nails. Then all the toes are massaged with oil before breaking all of them except the biggest ones. These are then bent and stuck tight to the soles of the shoe. The arch of the foot is then strained to double the bent. This is then secured altogether with a silk strip.
The girls would then be forced to walk long distances so that the feet remain secured until they are permanently bent. The entire process takes about two years post which there is no way it can be reversed without suffering from equal, if not not more, pain.
The scenario today
`The last lotus shoe making factory closed down in 1990 and the tradition today is highly condemned. However, this tradition is proof that women all over the world have had to undergo pain to be socially acceptable. They have undergone tortures to be regarded as elite and beautiful- both of which have had their negative consequences. With the practice eradicated now, the last surviving women of this tradition will always be remembered. So will the thousands of other girls who went through the same.