As Ko (2001) understands, that modern perceptions of foot-binding are a product of symbolism and what is seen through the eyes. Acknowledging this notion, the objective of this paper is to explore the dimensions of Chinese foot-binding by highlighting the role of the era’s women in the practice. Henceforth, the paper uncovers the association between foot-binding and the concept of work undertaken by women in Chinese society, the definition, perceptions and expectations of beauty in the era and the relation of shoe-making with each stage of a woman’s life. While sociologists and researchers have worked relentlessly to unravel the mysteries of foot-binding, the most prolific method of analyzing this phenomenon has come in the form of shoes for bound feet which according to Ko (2001) “…can guide us to the material and bodily experiences of the women who made and wore them”. This statement represents the significance of foot-binding in a woman’s life as it essentially points towards the broader scope of the concept which is associated with ethnicity, culture and social status. According to Ko (2001) the origins of foot-binding in China point towards a plethora of stories that are situated in epic tales and events of unknown creatures, the focal point of this statement however is the story of Yexian, a Chinese version of the beloved Cinderella whose lost shoe leads her Prince to find her. Despite of being replicated and translated in countries across the globe, the Chinese edition of the tale is distinctive because of its representation of a unique outlook that merges shoes and sexuality. Ko (2001) recognizes the story’s focus which highlights the immense beauty that is associated with tiny feet henceforth, reflecting the foundation of foot-binding and the forces which worship a woman’s beauty. Consequently, the definition of perfection in Chinese society resides in its art forms of individual expression. The appreciation of a young maiden’s feet adorned in silk slippers is an imagery often delivered in the poetry of aficionados during the Tang (Ko 2001). However, these symbolic representations that first emerged in the third century only transformed into reality three centuries later while, reaching their zenith in the ninth century. Ko (2001) states that an interesting aspect which opposes the premise of foot-binding as a practice which solely promotes beautification and sensuality postulates that the lotus symbol which represents the phenomenon is considered to be a mark of piousness in Buddhist religion. Despite of these observations the fact of the matter remains that foot-binding in China primarily emerged as a means of satisfying male pleasures and demands from female beauty that were commemorated in the size, measurement and shape of a woman’s feet. The longstanding existence of Chinese foot-binding was marked by its continued evolution which essentially asserts that a practice which began as a symbol of sensuality and sexuality later transformed into a phenomenon that transcended such motives that were solely and particularly advanced by men. Expounding upon the importance of foot-binding with respect to the traditional concept of women’s work, duties and responsibilities, Ko (2001) states that housewives and mothers soon began to incorporate the practice in their lives as a mark of commemoration and to honor their contributions to
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