Chinese Foot Binding in Pictures

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Image: Library of Congress (LOC)

A high caste lady’s dainty ‘lily feet’ – as they really were – in China

”When a Celestial takes into his hand a woman’s foot, especially if it is very small, the effect upon him is precisely the same as is provoked in a European by a young and firm bosom. All the Celestials whom I have interrogated on this point have replied unanimously: “Oh, a little foot! You Europeans cannot understand how exquisite, how sweet, how exciting it is!” ~Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty

Women have done many things for beauty throughout the course of history – from indifferently using arsenic or lead-based cosmetics, to ear and other body piercings, to yet more extreme forms of body modification. One of the most agonizingly painful of such practices is the Chinese custom of foot binding, where the feet of women – typically young girls – were broken and bound until they were able to fit inside a tiny shoe.

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