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, particularly if it is quite 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

Ladies have done a lot of things for beauty |through the entire 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.

                                                                                                            Photo: Library of Congress (LOC)

                                                                                                         Photo: C.H. Graves.

                                                                                                       Photo: Underwood and Underwood

                                                                                                                Photo: Unknown

                                                                                                                      Photo: Unknown

                                                                                        Photo: Unknown; Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection.

                                                                                                 Photo: Underwood and Underwood
                                                                                  Photo: Book by Ernst v. Hesse-Wartegg (-1918)
                                                                                                                   Photo: Unknown
                                                                                                           Photo: Albert Friedenthal
                                                                                                           Photo: Unknown
                                                                                           Photo: Book by Ernst v. Hesse-Wartegg (-1918)
                                                                                      Photo: Albert Friedenthal

  • LarryChupacabra

    We’re a really fucked up species.

  • Asd

    Let’s be honest, the tiny shoes are fabulous.

  • ba

    Says you.

  • yeh

    This is basically the same as all the things we do to our bodies now, its INSANE!!

  • Monicatoby

    I think that’s true, to a large degree! The difference between the foot binding, genital mutilation of children, etc, is that the piercings, tattooing, and plastic surgery, are done on the request of people who are old enough to make the decisions for their own bodies.