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oot binding was a traditional Chinese practice that involved tightly binding the feet of young girls in order to prevent them from growing, resulting in the feet being deformed and significantly smaller than normal. This custom was practiced for over a thousand years, from the 10th century until the early 20th century, and was considered a symbol of beauty and social status.

The practice of foot binding began in the Song dynasty (960-1279) and became widespread among upper-class families during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The custom was particularly popular among wealthy families who wanted to show their status and prestige, as it was considered a sign of wealth and nobility. The practice was also believed to make women more desirable as it was considered to be a symbol of beauty and femininity.

Example of the mutilated foot (Still image from Youtube: The Horrors Behind Foot Binding [0:04])

The process of foot binding was extremely painful and often resulted in serious health problems. The feet of young girls were tightly bound with bandages, with the toes bent under and the heel forced towards the sole of the foot. As the girl grew, the bindings were tightened, causing the bones in the feet to break and the arch to collapse. This resulted in the feet being deformed and significantly smaller than normal, often only three to four inches long.

The practice of foot binding had severe consequences for the health of the women who underwent it. The deformed feet made it difficult for them to walk and often resulted in chronic pain, infections, and difficulty standing for long periods. The practice also limited the mobility of women, making it difficult for them to work or participate in daily activities.

The girls’ feet were bound when they were between the ages of four and ten.

To soften the feet, a warm herbal and bloody concoction was applied. Peeling off the toenails stopped in-growth.

Except for the big toe, the toes were compressed into the foot’s sole, where they curled under and fractured. The foot’s arch was then severely shattered in order to align the foot with the leg.

Bandages that were three meters (ten feet) long were wrapped firmly around the shattered foot. So that the girls couldn’t untie the bandages, they were stitched together.

X-Ray of Woman who has undergone the procedure of Foot Binding (Source:MyMed)

It was suggested that the foot binding be done by a qualified foot binder. Because they felt too much sympathy for their suffering kids and wouldn’t bind the girls’ feet securely enough, the moms weren’t the greatest candidates.

To avoid infection of the damaged feet, the feet were untied and cleansed every several days. The rotting flesh was also cut away. Of the 10 girls, one perished from the disease. To further alter the size of the feet, the bones might be shattered once more if necessary. In order to further shatter the bones in their feet and increase circulation, the girls had to walk considerable distances.

Despite the health risks, the tradition of foot binding persisted for centuries. It was considered a rite of passage for young girls, and those who did not undergo the procedure were often looked down upon by society. It was also believed that the smaller the feet, the more desirable the woman was considered to be.

Normal foot compared to foot binding (Source: Public Domain)

In the late 19th century, the practice of foot binding began to decline as it was increasingly viewed as a backward and barbaric tradition. The Chinese government, along with Westerners, began to speak out against the practice, and in 1911, the newly established Republic of China made foot binding illegal.

Despite the ban, the tradition persisted in some areas, and it was not until the Communist Party came to power in 1949 that the practice was finally eradicated. Today, foot binding is viewed as a symbol of the oppression and abuse of women, and it is widely considered to be a barbaric and outdated tradition. Despite the eradication, this tradition is still practiced in some remote parts of China.

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