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Documenting the last bound feet in China

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SU XI RONG’s tiny feet made her one of the most beautiful women in her the village. Hers were a perfect form in a society which valued delicacy in its womenfolk. Photographs of her show an old woman proudly displaying her finest assets. Although to the modern eye, her gnarled skin and unnaturally bent toes can shock, a new exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences by Jo Farrell, a British photographer, brings out their beauty. 

Foot binding became popular among the upper classes in the 10th century, during the Song dynasty, perhaps in imitation of a particularly dainty concubine. The perfect bound foot, known as the “golden lotus”, was less than 10cm long. The cost of such perfection was years of excruciating manipulation and pain. Bandages were used to pull the four smaller toes down underneath the foot while pulling the heel towards the toes. Walking on bound feet would push the metatarsals backwards until the foot broke, creating a deep crevice between the front and the back of the foot.

The result was…Continue reading

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