4 / 1999

China * "San zun jin lian" or three inch golden lotus shoe

The Han-Chinese tradition of binding women's feet, to make them appear as a lotus-bud, was thought to have started around a thousand years ago at the end of the Tang Dynasty and the beginning of the Song Dynasty, when a favourite consort of Emperor Li-Yu bound her feet, much like a present day ballerina, to suggest a new moon in a dance she performed for him, in a setting of a lotus flower. The fashion caught on among the women of the court and gradually the style spread outside court circles until it was almost universal in China. In order to attain the ideal length of about 7 centimeters (3 inch) a girl would have her feet bound between the ages of three and five. Up until the early 1900's almost all lotus shoes were made in the home by the person who was going to wear them. Soles were made of layers of cotton cloth pasted together with flour or rice paste, sundried and then stitched together with a heavy thread and a large needle. Uppers consisted of embroidered silk vamps with cotton linings.

Research and text by : W.A.H.M. Habraken-Oosterhout-Holland
Illustration by : Colin Ball - Waalwijk - Holland