Beauty has been pursued for millennia, from ancient times to the glam of the modern age. Every society has styles and beauty techniques that often reflect what the average person should look like in order to be deemed beautiful. But beauty is not always easy; many even claim that pain is beauty.
Ancient China had their own definition of beauty, and it was cruel, disfiguring, and harmful to all those who underwent the procedure. Lotus feet, acquired by extreme foot-binding, was all the rage, and those who had bound feet were said to be of utmost beauty. To gain such tiny feet, however, woman and children had to undergo a crippling procedure that disfigured them for the rest of their lives.
10. No One Is Certain When The Practice Actually Began
Though foot-binding is well-known, history experts are unsure of when the practice began. The most widely accepted start is the 10th century, during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. During this time, many different emperors rose and fell, but the tradition of foot-binding remained.
The origin of foot-binding also has many possibilities, but one legend has been passed down more often than others: that of the emperor and the concubine. An emperor from the period was surrounded by many concubines, but one was of particular interest, as she created a stage that looked like a lotus, upon which she performed. As she continued performing for the emperor, over time, she began to bind her feet so that they became small and always hoof-shaped.
As her tiny feet danced upon the lotus stage, the emperor became consumed with love for the beautiful concubine and deemed her his favorite. The other concubines, jealous of losing favor with the emperor, also began to bind their feet in order to make him love them with the passion with which he loved his lotus dancer.
9. Lotus Feet Were For The Benefit Of Men
Lotus feet were of particular interest to men of the time. Men found lotus feet to be incredibly attractive on women and also believed that their tiny feet had more pleasurable effects. Foot-binding, due to its crippling effects, caused women to walk in shorter, more controlled steps. It was believed that this difficulty walking caused the women to use more muscles in their inner thighs, hips, and pelvic regions. Men believed that lotus feet, combined with the exertion put on these muscles, caused women to have a tighter vagina and pelvic floor, thus making sex with them more pleasurable.
Lotus feet were also a very popular fetish of the era. Men viewed them as the ultimate in sexual arousal. While having sex, many men would require the woman to leave her lotus shoes on her feet, creating a mystique around the tiny feet and increasing the sexuality of the encounter. Some men, incredibly infatuated with the deformed feet, even found ways to increase their arousal by performing random, sex-driven acts with them, including smelling, caressing, licking, and putting the foot in their mouth. Some of the weirder fetishes of lotus feet lovers at the time included drinking water that the feet had been washed in or and placing food items between the toes and nibbling them out.
Though lotus feet had a sexual meaning for men, they also were also a marker for a man’s wealth and status. Many times throughout China’s extensive history, people were on the brink of starvation due to many different attributes. But one could always tell which man was wealthy and better-off, based on how many lotus-footed wives he had. Because these woman could do little but stay in their homes all day, men with many lotus-footed brides could show their wealth, essentially proclaiming, “Look how rich I am! I can afford to feed all these useless mouths!”
Lotus feet also gave men near-complete control over the women put through this tortuous procedure. Because foot-binding kept women from moving around easily, men prized women with tiny feet because they knew they could keep them around without any chance of them straying. Because they could only walk a few miles per day, they were destined to a life of servitude within the man’s house, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of children. It also assured men that their tiny-footed wives were not adulterous; because they couldn’t walk, they were to be his and only his. Lotus feet were essentially a way for a man to keep a woman as a possession for his benefit, sexually and economically.