Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chinese Foot Binding

In the story, Adeline's grandmother had bound feet and it was indeed a fascinating but scary tradition. A suffering which had caused her grandmother great pain throughout her life and prohibited her from much movement without assistance from others. When I read this, I automatically thought this was definitely a tradition that could help me answer my essential question (How the traditions and customs has shaped China into what it is today). Due to my Chinese heritage, I have some prior knowledge to this aspect, since I have heard many stories of my great great grandmother's bound feet told by my grandmother, but i never actually have seen a bound feet. This interested me and encouraged me to do some research on it. The results was a terrifying nightmare and made me want to kiss my own feet because I felt so lucky i wasn't born a millennium ago.

The origins of how this practice came to be is not definite. Many believed that it started during the Tang Dynasty, where legend has it that the emperor fell in love with his concubine because she had such beautiful dainty little feet that she wrapped with silk every time she performed a "Lotus Dance". From then on, this idea of small feet was considered a sign of beauty and women from all over China were put to this torture. This process is a horrifying procedure, where girls at the age of 4-6 were put into this mandatory fate, having the foot wrapped with binding, which eventually broke the bones in their feet. Sometimes, the toenails would grow into the feet. Disgusting and painful! After about three years, the feet was officially "dead", and this procured a stench that stayed for the rest of the girl's life. All this was done in order to achieve beauty, to be eligible for marriage, and to attain social status. It was said that no man would marry a girl with "clown feet", and that bound feet helped put a graceful style in a girl's walk. In a society where men ruled, this tradition ensured that women were kept weak, out of power, obedient and dominated by her husband. The lower class citizens of China didn't have to go through this agonizing pain because they had to work in the fields all day, but some did attempt to put their daughters through this in hoping she would marry a wealthy man where she no longer have to work in life. In my opinion, I rather suffer in the scorching heat and pouring rain, than have my feet bound to live a "supposedly" luxurious life.

Below is a link of pictures of a woman who had bound feet. Some pictures are GROSS and DISTURBING! So, enter at your own risk, because I have WARNED you!



Quan T 6 said...

This information is interesting and enlightening. It shows that society greatly impacts the view of "beauty". Just as we view the foot-binding customs as strange and ugly, those people probably view our present customs negatively as well. Overall, "beauty" is truly in the eyes of its beholder.

Gabstaa said...

It is such a culture shock to see those pictures and wonder how they thought that inflicting pain is beautiful. I think that if i were asian and lived through that period of time, I would be a rebel and probably thrown out of my house since my parents would be ashamed of me not having my foot bound.

I also agree with "quan t 6" on the interesting and enlightening bit. I find it fascinating how different cultures and periods of time have different concepts of beauty. Also, how those concepts shape the current ones.