The bandaged foot (缠足 – chánzú) was a popular practice in some parts of China until the twentieth century. Activists against bounded feet educated practitioners by telling them the perception of the outside world of this trend as a barbarity, and teaching them the advantages of normal feet. With all this, the practice was nearly eradicated, but some families continued this tradition until it was banned by the Communist government in 1949.
The earliest known records of the practice date from the Southern Tang dynasty around 937 A.D. It is believed that the tradition arose when women began to imitate the imperial concubine who was known for her tiny feet wrapped.
For girls who were born into a wealthy family, was sure that at some point of their lives, the process to sculpt their feet to make them smaller and pointed, would begin. This body modification intended to attract suitors and show a higher status in society. The Chinese culture considered these feet as true beauties, although the process of transforming lotus feet was dreadful and led to feet problems during all life.
Girls between two and five years old were carried to the elderly woman of the family to begin the process of transformation. The old woman soaked the feet of the girl in a solution of animal blood and herbs. Her nails were trimmed and maintained, and her feet massaged. Once the muscles were relaxed, the old woman curled the toes of the girl down, where the bones allowed her, breaking the phalanges of the girl and forming a kind of twisted fist. There was no way to ease the pain during this process.
The feet of the girl were wrapped in long bandages. Each bandage was tightened as much as possible, drawing the ball and heel of the foot closer and lowering the end of the foot in a point. The wraps were sewn allowing its adjustment when they were dried.
Then the girl’s feet were developed eventually to be cleaned, cut the nails and remove any dead meat. Sometimes a toe or two would fall during this process. The feet of the girl were wrapped again stronger than before, which caused a reduction of the foot plant.
Once the feet reached 7.5 cm, the ugly bandages were adorned with embroidered silk slippers. A lady with perfect lotus feet became a coveted partner. Her re-configured feet were evident by his particular way of walking. They were considered sexually arousing to men, and girls who had them were much more likely to get a prestigious marriage.
However, these women tended to waive participation in society and in politics because of their reduced mobility, and became dependent on their husbands and families for the rest of their lives.
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