Chinese Footbinding

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The ancient Chinese custom of footbinding caused severe life-long suffering for the Chinese women involved. When researching the subject of footbinding, one of the difficult things is finding factual knowledge written before the 20th century. Most of the historical data has been gathered from writings, drawings and photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries. Additionally, the research indicates that the historical documentation was mainly from missionary accounts and literature from various anti-footbinding societies. These groups had a bias because of their opposing viewpoints. The first documented reference to footbinding was from the Southern Tang Dynasty in Nanjing (Vento 1). Although the history of footbinding is very vague it lasted for at least one thousand years.Early text referred to the Han Dynasty as people who preferred that the women have small feet (Vento, 1). Vento also acknowledged the first documented reference to actual binding of the feet was from the Tang Dynasty in Nanjing (1). Before the Sung Dynasty Binding was only slightly constricting, allowing for free movement, they were also thought to have used footbinding to suppress women. The Yuan Dynasty introduced binding into the central and southern parts of China. It may have been emphasized to draw a clear cultural distinction between the Chinese and their large footed conquerors, the Mongols. Footbinding was most popular during the Ming Dynasty, if parents cared for their sons they would not go easy on their studies and if they cared for their daughters they would not go easy on their footbinding (Levy, 47-49). One recent study estimated that there are still one million women in China with bound feet. The last Chinese women, still living with bound feet in Hawaii, was in 1994 (Kam, D-6).There are many legends of how footbinding began, one such legend is Lady Yao, a dancer and concubine for Prince Li Yu, danced with such grace that the prince required her to bind her feet...
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