To increase beauty or enhance marriage eligibility, Lotus feet tradition scared lives for a millennium. We hope you never experience the pain and suffering Chinese women had to go through in the past.
Beauty is really cruel in nature. From wearing corsets in Victorian era to genital mutilation in Africa, it always been a horrible experience for women. Another painful example is Foot binding tradition in China. It lasted for almost 1000 years. Started in 10th Century under Song Dynasty because king loved one of his ballerina’s feet. Dancer wrapped her feet in a way that it looked like a blooming lotus. It decorated with intricate embroidery and stones. After watching that king ordered girls in his kingdom to wrap their feet like this. He called this custom as lotus feet or special shoes for such feet known as lotus shoes.
At first it was common in rich and elite class of society. But in 13th Century it considered essential for every girl to have wrapped feet. Eligibility for marriage depended upon sizes of their feet. If their feet are 3 inches in size, it considered appealing and call them golden lotus. If feet are 4 inches then they are silver lotus. And if the size of feet are 5 inches and more, they called ugly and refereed as bronze lotus. More the size of feet, lesser the chances of getting married or having good partner.
Process of binding feet
Practice starts at the tender age of 4 or 5. Young bones are easy to break or bend. So they starts at really young age so girls used to of such pain and agony. Process is really painful to watch. First feet soaked in warm water to get soft and clean. Then last four toes forcibly bend and wrapped tightly with the 260 meter long cloth. After that binding sewed by needle to stay in shape. Bones broken and arch remain like this for the rest of their lives.
Process can take 2 months to 2 years. Mostly girls cried in pain and difficulty to walk. Since no medical assistance taken care of. Girls get infection, Gangrene, puss or other injuries. Binding changes every month in poor families. Whereas in rich families binding changes every other day. Before wrapping puss, blood or nails cut down and make them appealing by embellishments. After a while girls starts binding their feet themselves. Poor girls left binding after getting married because it can cause less mobility and they cannot be much effective for their families. Moreover there are servants in rich families so they continue this practice for entire life.
Theories behind lotus feet tradition
There are a lot of famous theories behind this practice. It was a beauty standard, and if some girl refuses to wrap her feet it considered ugly and outdated. Another aspect was status symbol. It adored by girls because society appealed by it. Another aspect was Erotic beauty, it was a myth that foot binding increases the fertility in women. Since blood flow increases in the area of legs and pelvis, fertility rate increases.
Another Aspect was to keep them limited in their homes. Foot binding limits the mobility of girls and they have to live at homes and take care of their husbands and family. It prevents them to do jobs or any other major functions outside. With this gruesome practice, hundreds of girls left paralyzed and unproductive for their entire lives.
Criticism and Ban of practice
A lot of time this practice discouraged by people. The emperor Chun Chi, of the Manchu dynasty which never practiced foot-binding at court, tried to impose a ban in 1645 CE but the measure was not successful. Another attempt was in 1662 but again it neglected. The Qing poet Yuan Mei (1716-1797 CE) was another prominent name who tried his best to put a ban on this practice. But the tradition was so in-depth in people that they refuse to accept each attempt.
Moreover in 20th Century, a strong ban put in 1912 allover the country. People still disagrees to accept this change. But there was constant counselling and protests. So after so many attempts and protests it outlawed in 1949 when China became People’s Republic of China. Last factory that makes lotus shoes for lotus feet closed in 1999. Now few old ladies left who can tell stories of pain and suffering of this tradition. But if you think about it, this horrible tradition lasted for a millennium that scarred the lives of millions of girls.