Chinese foot binding is a practice that most people have heard of – I certainly had and I knew it was unpleasant, but boy is that the mother of all understatements. What I found out about this barbaric art is pretty shocking. So if you’ve finished your dinner, read on.
Foot binding probably started in the T’ang Dynasty at some point in the 10th or 11th Century, mostly in the upper classes. It was a sign of wealth and beauty. The blokes loved the way it made the young women totter around, they thought it dainty and arousing. OK, so I can sort of see that having small, cute feet would be attractive. But if you knew how they’d got that small I’m pretty sure it would be a massive turn off.
The process of binding feet starts when the girl is young, often between 4-7 years. First you soak the feet either in water, or animal blood mixed with herbs, then clip the nails back as far as they will go. So far not so bad.
Next, all the toes (except the biggest) are curled underneath the foot until they literally break. That’s right, the toe bones of these tiny young girls were snapped and curled under. The feet are then wrapped in bandages as tightly as possible, the leg is pulled straight and the heel is pulled towards the ball of the foot with such pressure that it snaps the arch of the foot too.