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East Asian

Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition

Beverley Jackson.
Publisher Ten Speed  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 10 x 10 x 0.65 inches
ISBN 9780898159578
Pages/Publication Date 183/1997
Daedalus Item Code 23548
This item is not available.
A thousand years ago, it became a custom in China to break and bind some girls' feet into the shape of a pointed bud. Generations of women tottered through life on three- to four-inch "lotus" feet encased in exquisitely embroidered, excruciatingly tiny shoes. Illustrated with period art, archival photos, and color photos from her own travels through China, this book by cultural historian Beverley Jackson investigates how and why the torturous tradition evolved and continued, even into the 20th century. Was it forced, or chosen? Was there an erotic appeal or was it meant to keep women under male control? Jackson finds as many myths and fairy tales about the origins of footbinding as she does cultural and sociopolitical explanations.

"It is said that in order to be beautiful, one must suffer. With Splendid Slippers, Beverley Jackson shows just how beauty and pain can be entwined. How lucky we are that she has shared her knowledge and her exquisite collection with us."—Lisa See

"In a fascinating yet gruesome account of the former practice of binding the feet of Chinese girls, Jackson details the 1,000-year history, the necessary surgery and two-year process, the shoes and embroidery, and the lore (erotic and otherwise), as well as comparisons with other cultures (e.g., the so-called giraffe women of Burma, whose necks stretch as a result of an increasing series of necklaces). Surprisingly, it's a remarkably easy piece of writing to peruse; she tells both personal and cultural stories of lotus-bud feet, beginning with her discovery of a less-than-six-inch pair of shoes in, of all places, Edinburgh. Elegant color and historical photographs give the tradition a sense of reality; a fictional character—Phoenix Treasure—opens every chapter with comments on both the practice and the changing culture. Hobbled, almost crippled at times with pain, the Han Chinese women of yore (Manchus or Hakkas would never submit to such a barbarism) are indeed worthy of our pity—and, in modern days, our respect."—Booklist

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