Chinese Foot Binding – The Wūzhèn Foot Binding Museum: Why did the practice start? What was the foot-binding process? Who tried to stop it? Is anything like it happening today?

Barry and I went back to the Wūzhèn Foot Binding Museum again this year, so I have a forbidden photo to share, and I’ve learned more about the tradition that lasted about 1,000 years and impacted an estimated two billion Chinese girls who were crippled and lived in pain for the rest of their lives.

"Where in the world are Barry and Renee?"

Because I wear size 9.5 or 10 shoes (41 Asian), my grandmother always told me I have a good foundation.  Although I don’t consider my feet a great feature, they serve me well.

Thus just the idea of Chinese foot binding has always left me feeling rather queasy.  But when Barry and I got to tour another lovely recreated Chinese water town with our Maui College colleagues–and many other tourists, we came across the Wūzhèn Foot-Binding Museum.   I was curious.

This year, we got to return with our Shanghai Normal University colleagues to take another look at what I think is the most interesting part of this Chinese water town: the Wūzhèn Foot- Binding Museum.

The museum is tucked away, and you aren’t likely to discover it unless you go there looking for it or happen to find the sign in your wanderings off the main streets.

The Wūzhèn Foot-Binding Museum displays 825…

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

2 responses to “Chinese Foot Binding – The Wūzhèn Foot Binding Museum: Why did the practice start? What was the foot-binding process? Who tried to stop it? Is anything like it happening today?”

  1. Geri Rapp says :

    Amazing … and horrifying!


    • reneeriley says :

      I agree – and today we have Female Genital Mutilation. The World Health Organization estimates that 140 million women and girls around the world have experienced FGM, including 101 million in Africa — where many men and women support the practice. What’s wrong with people? And why are we sending our young people to war? Is that really the best way to settle differences between countries? Even today, we have un-examined practices. But we could change. Aloha, Renee

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