Footbinding Research Paper

Topics: Manchu, Chinese culture, Foot fetishism Pages: 17 (6104 words) Published: April 23, 2015




Liliana Melo

Composition I. I: An Introduction to Expository Writing, Course 101.5767 LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City
November 16. 2006


Although footbinding increases a woman’s chances of marrying well, it was a violent act against women.

I. Footbinding:

A. Definition.
B. Origin and its history
C. Description and Process.
D. Myth around footbinding

II. Footbinding increased a woman’s chance of marrying well.

A. Beauty
B. Eroticism and Femininity
C. Obedience and Discipline
D. Status and Social position in Chinese society

III. Women’s position in Chinese society during 10th century of Imperial China.

A. Family.
B. Women’s work.

IV. Footbinding was a violent act against women.

A. Physical pain and its deformations.
B. Psychological and emotional pain and its relationships.
C. Footbinding thought the death

V. Conclusion.

Footbinding: A Painful Tradition in China

“Keep her barefoot and pregnant,"
- Old Chinese Saying -

During the time women have deformed, mutilated, bounded, changed, manipulated, damaged, and altered their bodies not only to survive in the society, but also to satisfy the men erotically and sexually. Thus, one of the most painful ways in which women participated in and became bound to patriarchy was the footbinding. Footbinding was a Chinese tradition of the binding the feet of women lasted for 1,000 years. Mothers bound their daughters’ feet, and footbinding evolved into a rite of passage into womanhood within the Confucian system, which valued female domesticity and textile arts. “The historical origins of footbinding are frustratingly vague, although brief textual references suggest that small feet for women were preferred as early as the Han dynasty” (Vento 1). This custom was “the act of wrapping a three- to five-year old girl's feet with binding so as to bend the toes under, break the bones and force the back of the foot together” (Vento 1). Its main purpose was to generate a tiny foot, the "golden lotus", which was three inches long and thought to be both lovely and alluring (Ping x). In fact, footbinding symbolized the Chinese nation, civilized man, and the patriarchal power; in order words, the smallness of the feet became a source of pride for the woman - she was considered unmarriageable without them- (Vento 3). In addition, footbinding was the way to introduce a young girl to the patriarchal power that would exist and dictate a woman throughout her entire life. Although footbinding increased a woman’s chances of marrying well, it was a violent act against women. In fact, footbinding was an enduring violence and pain, mutilation and self-mutilation in the name of beauty and good marriage, and was transmitted only through codes of silence that was only a masquerade (Ping xi) “Theories on the origins and purpose of footbinding are proposed, and the erotic element is strongly stressed” (Ross 327). According to the records and sources, the practice of footbinding was originated during the fifty years that elapsed between the T’ang Dynasty (618-906) and it gradually spread through the upper class during the Song Dynasty (960-1297) (Greenhalgh 7). In the early 10th century, Emperor Li Yu of the Southern Tang dynasty in China ordered his favorite dancer, Yao-niang, to bind her feet in silk ribbons and dance on a platform littered with golden lotus flowers so that her feet would look like new moons. From that day on, foot binding was often associated with the term golden lotus. In fact, the most popular and stylish type of footbinding shoes were known as "golden lotus" or "lotus shoe". Also this term is a synonym for bound feet. Most lotus shoes were beautifully embroidered and about three inches long ("lotus shoes"). The lotus shoes are known to be lovely and alluring to the male population in...

Cited: Vento, Marie. “One Thousand Years of Chinese Footbinding: Its Origins, Popularity and Demise” Women 's History Sourcebook 9 (1998): 1-9.
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