Objects and Stories

Bound Foot Shoes

What is it?

This is one of a pair of shoes for a lady with bound feet. Foot binding was once a tradition in China, but it is now illegal. Young women and girls had their feet bound to stop them from growing, as it was believed that the smaller a woman's feet were, the more beautiful they looked. We would now see it as shocking that women's bodies were deformed in a very painful way just for a fashion, but modern women still wear high heels that hurt their feet? 


What is it made of?

This shoe has an embroidered green silk upper with three different silk brocades above, black, pink and yellow. The shoe has a tiny pointed toe and the small heel and sole are covered with cotton cloth over a card or wooden base. 


When was it made?

1880 - 1900.


Where is it from?

The shoe is from China. 


How did it get to Leeds?

It was donated to Leeds Museums, probably collected by a Christian Missionary who felt that it was important to educate the world about how bad foot binding was.


A missionary is someone who is a member of a certain religion who works to convert those who do not share their faith. Many missionaries travelled the world to spread their religious faith and a number found their way to China. 


Convert - change someone's mind 

Deformed - to be damaged, the shape changed

Donated - given for free

Embroidered - a design sewn on to something to decorate it

Horrific - so horrible it is scary

Missionary - a religious person who goes abroad to tell people about their religion

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 

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Document icon Learning article provided by: Leeds Museum Discovery Centre | 
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