Thousand years of exquisite lotus shoes
The foot-binding custom arose from the 10th century and ended in the 20th century. It was long history that had lasted more than a thousand years and affected two billion Chinese women. Since the culture exchanged in 19th century, Chinese society has been earth-takingly altered in political system, ethical morality, life style, family, bi-sexual relationships, women s lives, and outfits. Thus, foot-binding has become prevalently refused, excluded, abandoned, and even referred to a shame and taboo for Chinese people. The history of woman and the culture of costume behind foot-binding disappeared. As a matter of fact, foot-binding was the pattern affected Han Nationality women thousands of years in education, morality, behavior, costume, and life style. Researching foot-binding history helps reveal the original views of women’s lives in early time.
Foot-binding Custom and Chinese Weaving Industry
Foot-binding custom created fast hand-working but slow foot-walking ladies. Women got used to sit for a long time. Weaving, sewing, spinning, and embroidering require lots of time and labors. Foot-binding divided genders by occupations and families became processing factories. Plenty of female labors played roles in the production of costumes and mostly in high-level. The society was richer by the production of weaving industry. China thus was transformed form agriculture and animal husbandry economy into processing, and female hand-working economy. Boom economy founded the rose of cities. From the Song Dynasty, economic focus headed south, prosperous southern cities appeared, and new trade era had come. Aside from traditional “Silk Road,” from Hexi Corridor to the west, “new Silk Road” had been opened both by land and by sea toward Indochina and minddle-Asia. Long period of economic surplus formed China in wealth and prosperity.
Foot-binding Custom and the Costume Development of Chinese Women
Traditional Han Nationality costume was whole body completely covered with loose dress and long sleeves costume. The slender gaits of foot-binding women perfectly exposed the aroma of Han Nationality costume style. With the immigration of Han Nationality to the south China from the Southern Song Dynasty, southern costume style keep the same as before. To accentuate the slender gaits, ladies chose softer and thinner fabric materials or multi-folds skirts such as pleated skirts. Costume style in the Northern China was heavy due to the cold weather, and it caused difficulties of revealing the exquisite gaits. In the Qing Dynasty, the northern ladies began to wear tight trousers and splendid accessories imitating from the south to expose their slender gaits.
Development and Local Characteristics of Lotus Shoes in China
Different regions in China formed different lotus shoes characteristics, almost every dialectal and cultural area had its own kind of lotus shoes. Since political, language, traffic, geographic division, and population immigration, Different shoes were formed. The bowed shoes rose in the Song Dynasty (about 12th century) could still be witnessed in Qinghai, Xikang, western Yunnan, and western Sichuan Provinces in the early years of Republic of China ear (20th century). It was like the cultural “living fossil.” The shoe sole in the song Dynasty which was combined with two colors and the sharp toe bow shoes in the Yuan Dynasty (14th century) still popular and coexisted in the bow shoes of southern China to the end of the Qing Dynasty, which was made for continuing the tradition of Han Nationality. Foot-binding women was unable to walk far away; different bow shoe was made at the end of the Qing Dynasty depended on different materials and regional histories.
Foot-Binding Custom and Fashion Trend
The vintage foot-binding costume was popular and stylish. It was the very few things which can be out of political interferences and male viewpoint. In the early years of the Song Dynasty, foot-binding costume was a dancing dress, very popular with the imperial and official families, but it was getting more and more prevalent to the public. Without official promotion, it was like “fire burned the forest,” spreading with the influences of Han Nationality to Yunnan-Kweichow Plateau, Hexi Corridor, Qinghai-Xikang-Tibet Plateau, Taiwan, Hainan Island, and the northeastern China. Besides being stylish in China, the costume was connected to world’s fashion trends. Not only the sharp toecap shoe style in the middle Asia and Europe in the 14th century but also the thick sole shoe style in Europe in the 16th century affected the bow shoe fashion evolvement. Each design of thick-sole bow shoe style led to new fashion trend. Cities like Quanzhou, Datong, Yangzhou, and Suzhou all once led the fashion. When Jin-Pu and Jiao-Ji railway started service in the late years of Qing Dynasty, women on longer isolated from the world. Cities along the railway introduced the western patterns of production and business marketing, the last fashion trend of bow shoes in China arouse in the littoral provinces.
Foot-binding custom revealed the face of Chinese elaboration and luxury. Putting on lotus shoes was a detailed and delicate process. Women had to wrap the binding cloth around their feet first, then put on tiny socks and sleeping shoes, and finally put on bow shoes. Sometimes women would put on shoe coat in winter for warm protection. Northern women in the Qing Dynasty wore narrow trousers to accentuate their accessories on the legs, such as rings, belts, and buckles. Bow shoes were the focus of decoration. Women would decorate the shoes with silk balls, braid, etc. to make little sounds while walking; the others like narrow scarves, silk handkerchiefs gently hung on the waist, and holding lady’s fans, also manifested their gracefulness and softness. Aside from decoration purposes, bow shoe became a symbol of love affection; the exquisite accessories in bow-shoe shape became love pledges and cherished by men.
Foot-Binding Custom and Embroidery
Women were suppressed in the feudal society. However, in the sewing and embroidery sphere, women were left free space. From the Song Dynasty, arts became civilianized and in real-life purposes which performed women’s tastes and luxury lives styles. Due to geographically divided, each technical work and embroidery developed separately among China, local specialties were left on the foot-binding accessories and bow shoes.
Bow shoes could be finished individually or women might compose each half-done items, like embroidery, shoe vamp, shoe sole, wooden sole, etc, each item was supplied differently among geographical regions which revealed diverse business prosperities as well. It challenged the handcrafts, weaving industry, and business marketing system to make a pair of bow shoes in satisfaction. In the late years of the Qing Dynasty, the royals and officials in Beijing made bow shoes with Hungzhou silk cloth and Suzhou embroidery to perform their upper-echelon tastes and extravagance.
Traditional Han Nationality embroidery was left modest chinoiserie in the provinces along the Yangtze River valley with their moving to the south. Also, several embroidery skills were introduced from the west. In the 16th century, the Dutch sailed along the East-Asia coastlines introduced geometric-figures cross-stitch skills and the pictures were greatly adopted by Chinese woman during the period.
Foot-Binding Custom and Art Performance of Woman’s Body
Foot-Binding Culture was deeply influenced by philosophy of the Song and Ming Dynasties. Women had to stay at home and be clothed from head to toe. Except those female artists who performed on the streets, no dance or body stretches could be tolerated in public. With the splendid gaits and foot steps, women revealed balanced and harmonious poses. The tiny, bound feet were mysterious and revealed to nobody. Was it a body secret or a body performance? Where the costumes meant to perform themselves or cover their bodies in accordance with manners? It is difficult to answer. But one thing can be sure: women bound their feet to ascent themselves. Foot-binding was an ambition of perfection and work of art. What was the ambition? The naked bare-binding feet? The exquisite gait? Or the modest and implicit attitude?
Foot-Binding Custom and the Fashion Psychology
Foot-Binding custom had lasted more than a thousand years in the society of Han Nationality. It was a complicated, unsolvable psycho phenomenon in both society and fashion. Actually, it represented if a woman was civilized and well-mannered, and more than that, it was further more the attitude of obedience, continence, and clam. It was also a division between social and economic classes, or even if you were a “barbarian” or not. It was a social and gender identity as well. Foot-binding became women’s second sexuality and obviously, the outer sexuality. In the past, women gathered to learn needlework, embroider, making clothes, and did laundry; foot-binding was furthermore a co-experience, co-feeling among women.
Foot-Binding arouse from family-stressed society. The increase and decrease of family members became the most important part to be memorized. During the social atmosphere, shoes were made for different ceremonies, such as wedding and funeral ceremonies. Women’s handcraft was a note of family matters; it could also let us to research the social surrounding in the foot-binding culture.
Go into the Foot-Binding world, we may understand the fashion trends of the costume. Just like other costumes around the world, it had been evolved and changed with time; moreover, diverse geographic regions produced their specialties and gestated local cultures in costume. Those cultures were based in Chinese traditions, philosophies, moral principles, life styles, work materials and handcrafts. Chinese once promoted the fashion of high-heels, shoe accessories ahead of clothes ones, and the most luxurious possessions of individual artworks. Three hundred years ago, Han Nationality women faced the intrusion of “barbarians” Man-Qing; they maintained the custom of foot-binding tried their best to protect the traditional culture. Three hundred years had left, western culture greatly influences the East, and most Chinese forgot we once had the culture ever and even deny it. If we abandon what we had in the past, what will we have in the future?