How Did Foot Binding Work?


Quick Answer

To bind a woman's foot, the foot would be soaked in herbs first. Then the foot would be wrapped tightly in cotton bandages to prevent any bone growth. The tight cloth actually broke the toes as they attempted to grow, caused them to curl under, and the process deformed the feet of the women who choose to undergo the process. The Chinese thought tiny foot size was connected with beauty.

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Full Answer

Foot binding is the Chinese custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further foot growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China in the 10th or 11th century but spread in the Song Dynasty. Foot binding eventually became common among all but the lowest classes as a means of displaying status. Chinese women from wealthy families who did not need to work could afford to have their feet bound. Foot binding was also adopted as a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture, and as the wealthiest women were perceived as the most beautiful, this system worked well. However, outsiders typically questioned the beauty of the deformed feet that were the result of the process.

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