It has been seen differently by Chinese people at different periods of development of the Chinese society, and it has seemed quite exotic to western people. The practice unveils some trends that have existed…
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First, it is important to note that the procedure of foot binding is lasting and rather painful. Small girls’ feet were bound or rather broken to prevent the feet from growing in a natural way and to make them look like “three-inch lilies” (qtd. in Whitefield 204). The feet never healed and women with the ‘three-inch lilies’ were never seen with bare feet, as limited circulation resulted in rotting flesh. Women often felt sick when washing their feet because of the unpleasant smell (Whitefield 204). It is needless to say that men never saw their wives’ feet and did not want to think about the real appearance of the ‘three-inched lilies’. All these biological peculiarities seemed to have little or no impact on the way the tradition evolved prior to the middle of the nineteenth century.
It is necessary to note that the history of this tradition dates back to the period of the Song dynasty. There are different theories concerning origins of the tradition. According to the “likeliest theory”, it first appeared in the imperial court and then spread among “upper-class elites” (Whitefield 205). The fashion had a significant impact on the society in general and marital traditions, in particular. To marry successfully, young women (as well as their parents) had to follow the new rules and mothers started binding their daughters’ feet. Hence, it all started as an idea of beauty. Blake notes that there is an erotic aspect as foot binding was regarded as a “feminine mystique designed to please men” (676). Hence, men thought it was beautiful for a girl to have tiny feet and a new standard was established.
Women had another view on the practice. As has been mentioned above, mothers and grandmothers wanted their daughters to have more chances to marry successfully and they bound their daughters’ feet to make them fit into the world of specific standards. Thus, the tradition was seen as something natural and something that provided
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