Chinese Footbinding: A Beautiful And Brutal Custom

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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CHINESE FOOTBINDING: A BEAUTIFUL AND BRUTAL CUSTOM The Chinese custom of foot binding was a brutal and painful tradition that caused both physical and emotional damage to Chinese women for a thousand years. This custom has many facets most residing in the erotic; others in simple vanity. Its origins are buried under centuries of myth and the tight lipped customs of the ancient Chinese. Much more than a simple custom designed to improve on a woman's beauty even the origins of the myths concerning Chinese foot binding are nearly impossible to locate and lend little insight into the thoughts of a culture that could fabricate such a standard of grace and beauty. The erotic fascination with the Chinese foot led many to loose their toes and several to loose their lives. As we take a detailed look into the practice and into the lives of the women forced to bear it we can't help but see a multitude of similarities between this brutal act and the tortures that modern women volunteer for in order to fit societies mold of "beautiful"�.

While there are several myths concerning the origin of the practice, two stand above the rest. The first comes from the court of the emperor Li Yu around 920 A.D. It is said that the "Lady Yao, a dancer and concubine for Li Yu, danced with such grace that he required her to bind her feet to resemble new moons all the time."� (Aero 112-113) Another legend says that in sympathy for the club-footed Empress Taki, Li Yu ordered his concubines and all loyal ladies of the palace to bind their feet. In this way the Empress's deformity was turned from something ugly and unwanted into something beautiful to be wished for and achieved by all noble and well...