Imagine this: feet as small as lotus flowers.
Today there is still one old lady in Melaka who has lotus feet. Her feet are only 3 inches long; she has bound feet. When she needs a new pair of shoes she buys them from Wah Aik, the only shoemaker in Melaka who can still make these tiny shoes.
Doll’s shoes was what I thought when I saw them in the shop window. They are made of silk and lined with red velvet and fastened with gold-threaded laces. They have leather soles, which never wear out. Women with bound feet cannot walk.
Women with small feet were desirable brides. The smaller the feet the higher the dowry. They often married men of means and thus were sure of a prosperous life with one drawback: women with bound feet could not move about freely. They could not leave the house unaccompanied. This is exactly what their husbands liked.
These women walked with a swaying gait as they tried to keep their balance. Men found this swaying gait erotic. Besides, foot binding kept women in their place. They were regarded as their husband’s property, and, without the help of his support, they could not move. They were housebound and every step was painful; yet, they were expected to raise the children, prepare the meals, and do the housework.
Walking meant excruciating pain. Therefore, some women put stools next to each other to form a chain so that they could move without their feet touching the ground; others moved about on their knees, which was almost as bad as walking.
The binding of the feet began between the ages of three and six. The bones were broken and the toes were folded under the foot. The ball of the foot buckled in and was wrapped to the heel. The fold between the heel and the ball was the preferred site for intercourse. It is dubious whether women derived any pleasure from it.
Foot binding was banned in 1911, but it did not stop right then, as so many girls were in the middle of the process. Finally, in 1949, this practice was made illegal. This means that women in their early 60's can still have bound feet.
Shoemaker Wah Aik at no. 56 Jalan Tokong in Melaka, Malaysia sells these tiny shoes to tourists.