The Results Of Foot Binding Are Just As Crazy As You’d Imagine

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They say that pain is beauty, but if you ask me, some people take that adage to the absolute extreme.

Take, for example, many women from China, who practiced the painful act of binding their feet. It was all in the name of achieving a daintier appearance. Even Chinese men found the feet to be more attractive, though many of them preferred to only see them covered — and you’ll see why.

Foot binding likely originated sometime before the year 960. Emperor Li Yu is said to have asked a concubine to bind her feet into the shape of a crescent moon and dance on a giant golden lotus he had created. She supposedly made other women so jealous of how graceful she became that many of them bound their own feet to be like her.

This practice became very popular during the Song dynasty, an era that lasted from 960 to 1279. Upper-class women gave themselves “lotus feet” to display their status, and it quickly became a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture. It eventually spread to all social classes because the smaller appearance of the feet became so sought-after.

The process had to be started when young girls reached somewhere between four and nine years old because the arches of their feet had not yet fully developed. After being soaked in a mixture of herbs and animal blood, the nails were cut short and the toes on each foot were pressed downward into the sole until they broke.

The arch had to be broken as well before the foot was tightly bound with cloth, causing it to fold at the arch. All the ends of the cloth were sewn afterwards to prevent the girls from loosening them. They were so tight that they couldn’t move their toes at all.

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This was usually done during the winter months when feet were more likely to be numb, but it goes without saying that the girls went through unspeakable agony. Even after it was done, the feet had to be periodically unbound, broken again, and rebound to get the desired shape.

Most women’s feet became completely numb eventually, but many were still able to walk and work, though they obviously couldn’t perform as well as people with non-bound feet. For some women, having their feet bound communicated that they didn’t need to work as a result of their wealth.

Though the practice was challenged in the late 1600s, and again in the later 19th century, it wasn’t phased out until anti foot-binding campaigns successfully discouraged it in the early 20th century.

A few elderly Chinese women are still alive today with permanent disabilities as a result of their lotus feet. Because of the issues associated with balancing, the older women are more likely to fall and break other bones, including their hips. Paralysis and muscular atrophy are also possible side effects.

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I may not be very fond of my feet, but I have absolutely no problem keeping them the way they are after seeing that. I seriously can’t imagine the agony these poor women had to go through for the sake of beauty.

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