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Tiny shoes leave an eloquent footprint in new museum
Latest Updated by 2007-05-08 09:28:26
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Three old women with "lotus feet" gazed on in silence Saturday (May 5) as the ribbon was cut at the opening ceremony of a new museum in southwest China.

Five thousand pairs of tiny bow-shaped shoes worn by women with bound feet have gone on display at the museum in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

"I have spent more than 20 years and a million yuan (130,000 U.S. dollars) collecting these shoes from the Chinese mainland and from Taiwan to make people reflect on our country's past," said Fan Jianchuan, a folklore collector and curator of the museum.

"Thankfully, the era of foot-binding is now over," he said.

According to Chinese legend, the custom of binding women's feet was first adopted among courtesans after a Tang Dynasty emperor about 1,000 years ago fell in love with a concubine who wrapped her tiny feet in silk when she danced.

As it spread, the practice became an important measure of female beauty, a pre-condition for marriage and even a sexual fetish for some men.

Girls' feet were wrapped in strips of cloth from about the age of five or six before they put on embroidered cloth or silk shoes. The excruciatingly painful process broke the bones in the girl's feet. The smallest known bow-shaped shoes are only nine centimeters long.

The eldest of the three old ladies invited to the opening ceremony was 103 year-old Chen Zhengshi. "We didn't want to have our feet bound," said the centenarian, "but we had no choice".

Covering an area of 1,000 square meters, the arc-shaped museum displays thousands of delicate shoes as well as pictures of the last generation of women with bound feet.

Editor: Wing

By: Source: China View website
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