Foot Binding

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  • Topic: Foot binding, Manchu, Foot
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  • Published : November 11, 2012
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For what reasons and results did mothers bind their daughter’s feet in China?

History 20I
Historical Investigation
Word Count: 2,000

Julie Diep
April 1, 2012

A. Introduction
In contrast to a physically disabled child’s question of “Why me?” left unanswered, the traditional Chinese had a cruel yet straight forward answer of “Because your childhood is over and it is time to grow into a woman.” Which led to the merciless act of willingly breaking and forcefully binding a girl’s foot at a ripe young age to the length of three inches, no longer than the length of a deck of cards. Woman who were seen inferior to men, were treated as objects exchanged in marriage for business or to tie two families together. They were expected to follow society’s rules, foot binding being one of these rules to increase the value of a female. During the 19th century, “…40–50% of Chinese women had bound feet; for upper class women, the figure was almost 100%...” (William Rossi). The Chinese culture encouraged this foot binding process as it was highly desired from ancient China to the 20th century until the establishment of the new Chinese Republic officially banning the process, ceasing it’s use. Mothers considered and inflicted the painful process of foot binding upon their daughters for reasons of marriage, status, and beauty with positive results or death from infection and a life-long physical disability.

B. Summary Of The Evidence
* The practices of foot binding were described as “San tsun gin lian,” “Golden Lotus” or “Lily”. By the 19th century, 40–50% of Chinese women had bound feet and for upper class women, the figure was almost 100%. * According to historical account, root of foot binding lie in China in the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), during the rule of Emperor Li Yu in China. The ruler's favorite concubine Yao-Niang performed a dance on the tips of her toes atop a golden lotus pedestal. * Another origin is of an Empress who had club-like feet, which became a desirable fashion. * Criteria for a well-bounded foot is three inches in length, a three inch deep clef between the heel and sole and that the appearance of the bounded foot is seen as a dainty extension of the leg. * The elder village women or mother was responsible for initiating and monitoring the binding process. * Foot binding was begun between the ages of two to five before the arch of the foot had a chance to develop fully. * Toenails were cut back to prevent in-growth and infection. * Each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood; this was intended aid the process by softening the tissue and bones of the foot to allow manipulation. * All the toes on the foot except for the big toe are broken and folded under the sole. * The broken toes were held tightly against the sole of the foot while the foot was then drawn down straight with the leg and the arch forcibly broken. * The foot was then bound in place with a 10'x2" silk or cotton bandage. * The bandages were repeatedly wound, starting at the inside of the foot at the instep, then carried over the toes, under the foot, and round the heel, the freshly broken toes being pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. At each pass around the foot, the binding cloth was tightened, pulling the ball of the foot and the heel ever close together, causing the broken foot to fold at the arch, and pressing the toes underneath. * Each time the feet were unbound, they were washed, the toes carefully checked for injury, and the nails carefully and meticulously trimmed. * Immediately after this pedicure, the girl's broken toes were folded back under and the feet were rebound. * Process took approximately two years.

* Toenails would often in-grow, becoming infected and causing injuries to the toes. * The tightness of the binding meant that the circulation in the feet was faulty, and the circulation to the toes was almost cut off. * As the...
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