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Beauty or deformity? Chinese women's three-inch 'golden lotuses' in feudal age

People's Daily Online)  10:11, January 22, 2013  


Foot binding was a custom practiced on young girls in China for about one thousand years from the 10th century and until the early 20th century.

Foot binding is the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upperclass court dancers in the early Song dynasty, but spread and eventually became common among all but the lowest of classes. Eventually foot binding became very popular because men thought it to be highly attractive.

People today wonder how such an extreme deformity could be viewed as a form of beauty, and most are shocked by the enormous human suffering inflicted in the pursuit of what was effectively a sexual fetish.

Foot binding began at an early age; young girls' feet were wrapped in tight bandages to prevent them from growing normally; their feet became deformed, never growing beyond 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).

The four smaller toes on a girl's foot would break within a year of the initial binding; only the big toe remained intact. A well developed arch was the essential feature of a perfect "lotus foot". The ideal outcome was a 3-inch foot, called a golden lotus. A 4 inch (10 cm) foot, called a silver lotus, was considered acceptable.

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