Chinese Foot binding

An examination of ancient Chinese foot binding customs.

This paper examines the legends of how foot binding began and describes the process of foot binding that often began from the early age of four. The paper highlights how foot binding was an important social custom and points out that what one society feels is wrong, another may consider right in the context of their cultural beliefs.
“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 free movement, they were also thought to have used foot binding 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.
“There are many legends of how foot binding 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 to resemble new moons all the time. Another is that it began out of the sympathy for Empress Taki who had club feet (Aero, 112-113). Although it has not been proven how foot binding started, one of the biggest reasons the practice continued for over 1000 years was it’s sexual appeal (Kam, D-1).”