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Shoes for Bound Feet; pair (xie)

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Anonymous China,
China Anonymous, Chinese
Shoes for Bound Feet; pair (xie), 1890-1910
Cotton and silk damask
4 in. x 1 in. x 5 in. (10.16 cm x 2.54 cm x 12.7 cm)


Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Creation Place: Asia, China
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. Harold H. Davis
Accession Number: T406


Medium
Cotton and silk damask.

Object Description
Pair of bound feet shoes made of red cotton and trimmed with ivory silk damask with satin thread embroidery. The sides of the shoes are embroidered with a flowering vine, with the simple flowers completed using satin stitching and the vine applied using couching. The flowers may be orchids, which represent nobility and friendship based on sincerity. The shoes’ original owner most likely lived in a village or belonged to the urban poor, because the shoe is constructed of cotton, and not silk. Another indication of the lower class status of the wearer is borne in the simplistic embroidery and the unadorned soles that in shoes of the wealthy are covered in intricate motifs. The arched sole and sharply pointed toe indicate the Northern style. The red coloration points to use during celebrations, like weddings, anniversaries and New Year’s; the color also represents virtue. Bound feet during the late Qing could be found throughout the social levels and was hardly exclusive to the very wealthy. Girls began binding their feet at the age of six or seven, manipulating the structure of the foot into the shape of a lotus bud, earning their bound feet the designation of “lotus feet.” The ideal foot, the “Golden Lotus,” was three inches long, but four to five inch sized feet were more common. Bound feet shoes, especially the embroidery on them, were made at home by the wearer. Condition: Good; damask border worn and no longer glossy Similar items: T228, T231, T233, T396a, T396b, T398, T405, T1010, T1013, T1141 For more information: Jackson, Beverly. Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1997.

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