The last women in China with lotus feet

Foot binding (lotus feet) was 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 period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century), then became popular during the Song dynasty and eventually spread to all social classes.

Foot binding became popular as a means of displaying status (women from wealthy families, who did not need their feet to work, could afford to have them bound) and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture. Its prevalence and practice however varied in different parts of the country. [wikipedia]


Su Xi Rong, 75 in 2008, Shandong province

LF-Su Xi Rong

Known as the most beautiful woman in the village because of her small, well-formed, bound feet. She can no longer walk very far as she has put on a lot of weight, and her small feet cannot support her. Su Xi Rong told me that because of feudal traditions, if you did not bind your feet you would not get married. If she tried to unbind her feet, her grandmother would cut a slice of skin off her toes to punish her.

Pue Hui Ying, 76 years old in 2011, Yunnan province

LF-Pue Hui Ying

Pue’s feet were bound at seven and were briefly unbound at 12 (in 1949), as was required at that time. Unbinding hurt as it forced the women to readjust the way they stood, and walk with broken toes.

Zhao Hua Hong, 83 years old in 2010, Shandong province

LF-Zhao Hua Hong

Her feet were bound when she was 15 years old.

Si Yin Zhin, 90 years old in 2011

LF-Si Yin Zhin

Si Yin’s feet were the most distorted that I have seen. They no longer look like feet – they have taken the shape of the shoes. Her feet had never been unbound, and she had managed to keep them hidden.

Huo Guan Yu, 89 years old in 2010, Shandong province

LF-Huo Guan Yu

Her sister taught her how to bind her feet when she was six years old, and they remained bound until 2010. When asked her why she had decided to unbind her feet after so long, she said that it was because she now needs help with the binding and no one does it correctly.

Yang Jing é, 87 years old in 2010, Shandong province

LF-Yang Jing é

Yang’s feet were bound when she was five years old by her grandmother.

Zhang Yun Ying, 103 years old in 2014, Shandong province

LF-Zhang Yun Ying

Ma Zhen é

LF-Ma Zhen é

96 years old in 2014, Shandong province She had her feet bound at seven years old. She cried so much that her grandfather complained, but he could not stop it. She unbound her feet at 30, as women would be fined if they didn’t.

Guo Ting Yu, 83 years old in 2010, Shandong province

LF-Guo Ting Yu

Guo’s mother was unwilling to bind her feet, so at the age of 15 she bound her own. She had watched how her own mother did it and copied her. All her small toes are broken underneath the sole, but ultimately she didn’t manage to reduce the length of the feet.

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