It’s estimated that during the nineteenth-century foot binding was carried out on as high as 50 percent of China’s female population.
The cruel and barbaric practice saw girls as young as two have their bones and ligaments in their feet broken and bent to try and make them as small as possible. In some cases less than 3 inches long. The practice is thought to date back to the Song Dynatsy – around a 1000 years ago and was officially banned in 1911 after the fall of the Qing Dynatsy.
Although illegal, many parents and grandparents still bound their daughters and granddaughters feet in order for them to find a husband to marry. Young girls were still having their feet bound in 1958, years after it was outlawed.
Here are some of their stories…
This year I am 90 years old and I am extremely lucky that my husband is still alive to help take care of me. He really cares about me and in our old age I am his number one priority.
I suffer from Parkinson’s and sometimes I find the simplest tasks such as eating or brushing my hair very difficult but no matter what, he is there to help me. I’ve had it for about 10 years now and it’s slowly become worse and these days, I have to use a wheelchair to get about.
Although I am 90, my hearing and eyesight are still good but I find it hard to talk sometimes. There are good days and bad days and we take it day by day. He is willing to do anything to keep me by his side.
This year he is 89, 1 year younger than me. When we married he was 15 and I was 16, the same age I stopped binding my feet.
My mum had bound feet and my sister as well but my sister has since died. We used to use a long piece of white cloth to bind our feet which was really painful both day and night and I really didn’t agree but I had no choice.
My mum made me and sometimes I’d secretly loosen or take it off the bandages but if my mum saw me or noticed then she’d hit me. My feet are not so small as I started later than other girls but my toes and other bones are deformed.
At the time we married it was becoming less popular to bind feet and my husband and his family didn’t care. Our families helped us meet and I didn’t see my husband until the day we married.
My husband owned a donkey and cart so sometimes I’d help him with his work but if not I was at home growing vegetables and looking after our 8 children. I gave birth to 9 but one of our little boys died. We had no money to buy medicine when he was sick.
Before 1966 my family was wealthy and my parents owned a lot of land but soon after we had to give the land to the government. They used to rent the land to others so they could grow vegetables.
My mum gave birth to 6 children but I am the only one still alive and I miss them and in this aspect, I feel lonely. Now I live in a house my children bought and as well as my husband, my children and grandkids care for, not only me but my husband too.
I feel frustrated that I can’t do everything I used to be able to do it but there is nothing I can do about that. I would be lost without my husband and I hope we can still spend a few more years together. I know that if anything happened to me he would find life very hard.
90 years old
These ladies have lived a tough life. They have seen huge changes and experienced a lot. They are the very last of their kind and within the next 10 years it might be impossible to find a lady with bound feet. For now, I think we can all agree and are glad that this culture and tradition no longer happens.