Foot Binding

Source:  Foot Binding    Tag:  foot binding x ray
Foot Binding




Foot binding is a custom that has been practiced on young girls and women for approximately one thousand years in China. It began in the tenth century and ended in the early twentieth century when the new Republic of China banned the custom. The women had to unwrap their feet or else they were threatened to be killed. Some women’s feet grew one inch after unwrapping while others found the new growth process of their feet extremely painful as well as both emotionally and culturally devastating.

Many people have come up with different theories to try and explain the origin of foot binding. One theory is that the custom was practiced by well-born girls to whom foot binding represented freedom from manual labour. Another theory is that it had something to do with a story about an empress who had club-like feet. Either way women and their families took pride in their tiny feet, especially ones that measured precisely 3 inches from the toe to the heel.

The bound feet turned out to be lotus-shaped and the condition has been known to lead to serious infections. There is evidence that some elderly Chinese women still suffered from disabilities in the 1990s and early 2000s.



The custom of binding female feet began when the child was around three years old because at this age, the bones of the young girl’s feet were not yet fully developed. First, each foot was soaked in a warm mixture which consisted of herbs and animal blood. This was used to soften the foot and aid the binding. Toenails were then cut back as far as possible to avoid infections. Next, the girl’s feet were delicately massaged as cotton bandages (which were about 10 feet long and 2 inches wide) were prepared. The toes on the foot were pressed with force downwards into the sole of the foot until its toes broke. The broken toes were held tightly against the sole of the foot as the foot was drawn down straight with its arch forcibly broken. Then bandages were repeatedly wound in the figure eight movement with each pass tighter than the one before it. This caused the young girl excruciating pain. When the binding process was completed the end of the cloth was sewn tightly to prevent the girl from loosening it at some point of time. The feet were unbound regularly. They were then washed, checked for infections and the toenails trimmed. As this was done the feet were kneaded in order to make them more flexible and the bindings were then wrapped again, pulling them tighter each time.