Did you know that the Chinese tradition of foot binding dates all the way back to the late 13th century? Did you then also know that the last factory producing the so-called lotus shoes to fit the tiny feet didn’t close down until 1999?
“Chinese shoes for ‘golden lotus’. Bought September 2nd 1957 from a Copenhagen antiques salesman for 25 Danish Kroner. Black silk on linen, with a simple embroidery in green, yellow, and red colours. Red faded tailboard. The antiques salesman bought them from another man along with a lot of other ‘Chineseries’. Under the sole they carry the inscription “From a Christian woman in Tinghwa.” The Chinese place name is difficult to read. The shoes are without a doubt common shoes for foot binding.” Søren L. Tuxen.
The practice of foot binding started out among elite women and became a symbol of female refinement. The term ‘golden lotus’ refers to the most desirable shoe size – just three inches! The ‘silver lotus’ equals a four inch foot, whereas 5 inch feet or bigger were merely iron lotuses. The practice included breaking all toes except the big toe and tucking them in under the sole of the feet, after which the feet would be bound in silk strips – forcing the arches to break too. OUCH!
Sometimes the practice of foot binding is also referred to as ‘fragrant lotus’ apparently because the feet, which were more or less constantly enclosed in the tight bindings, would eventually develop a very bad smell that the women would try to cover with different perfumes, however not always very successfully.
Want to read more about foot binding? Check out this article by Amanda Foreman at the Smithsonian Magazine.
If you are also into shoes, you can read more about Tuxen’s collection in this post.
// Emma Louise Pedersen
Photo: © 2007 Photo/Media Department of Moesgaard Museum.
Byline portrait: © 2015 Line Beck, lbmfotografi.wix.com