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A large proportion of Chinese women in the late nineteenth century had their feet bound small while they were children. The woman seen in this late nineteenth century photograph was an entertainer, a sing-song girl, but footbinding was also practiced by the families of scholars and merchants.
Foot binding (纏足; chánzú; literally "bound feet" or "Lotus feet" (縛腳) was the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upperclass court dancers in the early Song dynasty, but spread and eventually became common among all but the lowest of classes.
"Girl with bound feet 1870-1890. The feet would then regularly be unbound, washed and kneaded, with additional pain often caused by beating the sole of the foot to keep the bones broken. The feet were then rebound – ever more tightly each time. Whenever the binding session was over, the girl was immediately forced to walk on her feet to crush them further. None of this was carried out with any anesthetic."
Chinese foot binding was considered attractive and beautiful. As young girls, their toes were broken repeatedly and wrapped tightly until it reached the small desired size.