Show Notes: Foot Binding

Tracy Wilson

These lotus shoes have wooden soles and handmade brocade uppers. Photo by SSPL/Getty Images

For many, the Chinese tradition of foot binding calls up immediate, unpleasant (or perhaps infuriating) connotations. And while the practice was undoubtedly painful and debilitating for many Chinese women and girls - and it affected virtually every facet of their lives - its thousand-year history is layered with additional meaning. In today's episode, we talk about how foot binding got started, why it persisted for so long, and how it affected women's lives and Chinese society as a whole. We also get into some of the unintended consequences that followed when China ultimately banned the practice in the early 20th century. And we also talk about lotus shoes: the intricate, handmade footwear for women with bound feet, which were often embroidered with symbols that were meaningful to the wearer.

Our listener mail is from Denis about Maurice Duplessis (part one and part two).

Episode download link: China's Foot Binding Tradition

For more knowledge: How Foot Binding Worked

Holly's research:

  • Cummings, Steven R. MD, et al. "Consequences of Foot Binding Among Older Women in Beijing, China." American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 87, No. 10. October 1997.
  • Gillet, Kit. "In China, Foot Binding Slowly Slips Into History." L.A. Times. April 16, 2012.
  • Ko, Dorothy. "Every Step a Lotus." University of California Press. 2001.
  • Ko, Dorothy. "Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding." University of California Press. 2005.
  • Lim, Louisa. "Painful memories for China's Footbinding Survivors." NPR. March 19, 2007.
  • Montlake, Simon. "Bound by History: The Last of China's 'Lotus Feet' Ladies." The Wall Street Journal. Nov. 13, 2009.
  • Schiavenza, Matt. "The Peculiar History of Foot Binding in China." The Atlantic. Sept. 16, 2013.

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