all the styles of Chinese footwear, none causes so much curiosity and as
much controversy as the shoes worn by Han Chinese women with bound
feet. The shoes were known as lotus hooks, golden lilies, and
of foot binding is thought to have begun in the 10th century. One
of the rulers during this time was Li Yu. According to tradition,
his favorite consort had bound her feet in a dance she performed for him
to suggest the new moon. The fashion caught on among the women in
the court. However, after the Song dynasty, the bindings became so
tight that it was impossible for women with bound feet to dance.
Gradually, the style spread to women outside the court until it was almost
universal in China. The Manchus tried to ban it when the came to
power in 1644, but were not successful. Manchu women never wore the
end of the 19th century, the custom had begun to decline in popularity,
due to western influence. The new Republic banned foot-binding in
1912, and the custom finally died out in the 1930s.
would have her feet bound between the ages of 3 and five. A binding
cloth of white or black finely woven cotton or silk was wrapped around
the foot, beginning at the toes. The feet were usually bound to a
length of 5 inches. As part of her dowry, a girl would make between
4 and 16 pairs of shoes, to prove her skill in needle work, as well as
her small feet. After the wedding a pair was given to each of the
main female in-laws. All were richly embroidered. Low and high
heels were worn.