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Great Grandmother's Three-Inch Feet

Aug 21, 2008
My great-grandmother (on my father side) passed away when I was only 12 years old. By then she was 91 years old. Her feet with bound since she was a young girl so even at 91 her feet were only three-inch long, which also known as "three-inch golden lotuses". She was very traditional, strict and serious Chinese lady but always kind.

I remembered when I was a little kid; she always brought me to the market near our house and bought food for the entire family. Because of her age and her three-inch feet, when she walked, she needed a walker to steady herself and keep her body balanced. And she couldn't walk that far, especially long distances for extended times.

My grandmother, on the other hand, also had bound feet, but hers were a little bit bigger, maybe about four-inches. She told me it was because her mother hadn't bound her feet that long. Later I learned that her mother started to bind her feet when she was four years old, while my great-grandmother's feet bound when she was only three years old! So probably that explains why her feet were smaller than my grandmother's.

My grandmother, on my father's side, is now 79 years old and lives with my parents. Both of my great-grandmother and my grandmother's father would not allow them to attend school. They was never able to even read or write their - own name.

They made their own three-inch golden lotus shoes. I remembered every year, in the spring and summer when the weather started to become warmer, in the early evening; they would sit outside the house and make their own shoes and clothes while chatting with our neighbors. They spent their "leisure" time making elaborate shoes for themselves. I was so small at that time, but I would also sit there and help them prepare the material, such as preparing the glue into the bowl for them to use. The glue was homemade from starch powder.

When my parents were young they were very busy with their work, they did not have the time to properly look after me. So they sent me to live with my grandparents on my father's side since I was one year old. I lived with my grandparents until I was 17 years old when I returned to live with my parents. That's why I had a chance to spend my childhood and teen years with my great-grandmother where I could have lot of conversation with her. I feel fortunate to have had that experience as I've come to learn so few people ever even get to meet their great grandparents, especially the one with such small feet.

She told me I am a very lucky girl. Because I don't have to have my feet bound and face all the pain. I was even luckier that I was able have an education.

She said she cried a lot when her mother was binding her feet. My grandmother said the same thing to me. Their mother's used strips of bandage ten feet long and two inches wide. It was wrapped tightly around their foot to stop their feet from developing properly. The four small toes on each foot were broken and bent under the sole. The arch of the foot was bowed to make the foot shorter. The bandage was tightened each day and the foot was put into smaller and smaller shoes. The process takes two years to complete. By then, the foot was nearly useless for walking.

The entire binding process was very painful! But they had no choice. They couldn't object or refused as they were born into an old family and it was expected of them to have this done in those days.

They told me, in those days, a girl with three-inch feet was considered as perfect. Even beautiful girls if they were from a poor family could never afford to have bound feet. Girls from working class families needed a pair of strong broad feet for hard work. Three-inch feet are a symbol of women's status and identity. It was a symbol of wealth. For the wealthy it was status and proof of a girl's worth. Both of my great-grandmother and my grandmother's feet are just slightly larger than pack of cigarettes.

The practice of binding feet was created to literally keep women in their place. Women were regarded as property. The binding restricted there freedom to move about. They couldn't walk more than a few steps without someone having to support them. This guaranteed they weren't going to get anywhere unless they were willing to crawl.

The painful art and tradition of foot binding began over one thousand years. The practice of foot binding was finally declared illegal during the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

I miss my great-grandmother and my grandmother very much. I miss the nice times that we spent together. When I lived with them, I liked to watch their feet because their feet were so small, so soft and so cute (even smaller than mine when I was a teen). I am still doing that - watching my grandmother's feet every time I go to visit her.

I was wondering if the practices of foot binding still exist today. Where am I then? What my feet will look like - maybe I get two-inch feet instead of three, huh!
About the Author
Ann Liu, a certified professional Internet marketer and author of Online Profiting. To learn how YOU too can succeed in Internet and affiliate marketing, please visit http://Marketingbyann.com
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