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Photographer's Note

Foot binding (also known as "Lotus feet") is the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century), but spread in the Song Dynasty and eventually became common among all but the lowest of classes. Foot binding became popular as a means of displaying status (women from wealthy families who did not need them to work could afford to have their feet bound) and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture.The ideal length for a bound foot was three inches.
Millions of Chinese women went binding their feet to turn them into the prized "three-inch golden lotuses."
Bound feet became a mark of beauty and was also a prerequisite for finding a husband. It also became an avenue for poorer women to marry into money.

Footbinding became more popular and spread from court circles to the wealthy. Eventually, it moved from the cities to the countryside, where young girls realized that binding their feet could be their passport to social mobility and increased wealth.

How the footbinding is done?

The process was started before the arch of the foot had a chance to develop fully, usually between the ages of 2 and 5. Binding usually started during the winter months since the feet were more likely to be numb, and therefore the pain would not be as extreme.

First, each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood; this was intended to soften the foot and aid the binding. Then, the toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent in-growth and subsequent infections, since the toes were to be pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. Cotton bandages, 3 m long and 5 cm wide (10 ft by 2 in), were prepared by soaking them in the blood and herb mixture. To enable the size of the feet to be reduced, the toes on each foot were curled under, then pressed with great force downwards and squeezed into the sole of the foot until the toes broke.

The broken toes were held tightly against the sole of the foot while the foot was then drawn down straight with the leg and the arch forcibly broken. The bandages were repeatedly wound in a figure-eight movement, starting at the inside of the foot at the instep, then carried over the toes, under the foot, and around the heel, the freshly broken toes being pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. At each pass around the foot, the binding cloth was tightened, pulling the ball of the foot and the heel together, causing the broken foot to fold at the arch, and pressing the toes underneath. They would be unbound regularly. The bindings were pulled even tighter each time the girl's feet were rebound.

I took this picture inside a Museum in Lake George, New York State. The light was extremely low and the image was taken through the glass protected box. Certain amount of noise is detected and they are not in sharp focus because I used long exposure rather than the flash and I had no tripod on hand at the moment.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding
http://www.npr.org

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Anna Ho (imageme) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 188 W: 0 N: 311] (1532)
  • Genre: People
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2013-08-15
  • Categories: Ruins
  • Exposure: f/5.6, 1/10 seconds
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2013-12-28 8:33
Viewed: 1083
Points: 30
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Additional Photos by Anna Ho (imageme) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 188 W: 0 N: 311] (1532)
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