Q:

How did Chinese foot binding work?

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Quick Answer

Foot binding was a practice that involved wrapping the broken feet of girls with tight, painful bindings to stunt their growth. The pressure applied by the wrappings prevented the foot from healing and developing normally, eventually fusing the bones into a structure more resembling a hoof than a human foot. These deformed feet were a symbol of beauty in China for centuries.

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Full Answer

First, a girl's feet were soaked in a mixture of herbs and blood designed to soften the skin and tendons. Then, the toes were pressed into the sole of the foot and broken, often after the toenails were removed. Finally, the arch of the foot was broken, and the wraps were wound tightly around the foot to keep everything in place until the bones fused. The process was extremely painful and led to lifelong disabilities in the women who underwent the procedure. It also left the damaged feet prone to infection and even gangrene due to the damage caused by foot binding.

Foot binding probably originated sometime during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, around the 10th or 11th century. The practice began to fall into disfavor during the 19th century, but it continued until changing social attitudes eventually eradicated it during the 1900s.

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