China; Binding foot by Mattia Passarini

Foot binding is the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China

My big passion is to travel in remote areas to meet the most unique and diverse people before they disappear. Foot binding is something that I wanted to photograph since I move to china in 2006, the photo come out from a three year of searching for these last few women.

Foot binding is the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th-11th century), but spread in the Song Dynasty and became common among all but the lowest of classes.

Mattia Passarini

Foot binding became popular as a means of displaying status (women from wealthy families who did not need them to work could afford to have their feet bound) and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture and was also a prerequisite for finding a rich husband for poorer women. The process was started before the arch of the foot had a chance to develop fully usually between the ages of 2 and 5. First, each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood, this was intended to soften the foot and aid the binding. Then, the toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent in-growth and subsequent infections, since the toes were to be pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. To enable the size of the feet to be reduced, the toes on each foot were curled under, then pressed with great force downwards and squeezed into the sole of the foot until the toes broke. 
When unbound, the broken feet were also kneaded to soften them and the soles of the girl’s feet were often beaten to make the joints and broken bones more flexible. All the process to have a final nice looking binding foot took almost two years. An attribute of a woman with bound feet was the limitation of her mobility, and therefore, her inability to take part in politics, social life and the world. Bound feet rendered women dependent on their men, and became an alluring symbol of chastity and male ownership. In 1912, the new government of China banned foot binding. Since the beginning of this practice over 300 million women have had the foot bound, now just few elderly Chinese women still survive today. [Official Website]

Mattia Passarini

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Mattia Passarini

Mattia Passarini Mattia Passarini Mattia Passarini

Mattia Passarini

This project has been award in IPA 2014

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