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Jo Farrell has undertaken an important task, documenting the disappearing remnants of a thousand -year-old custom -- Chinese women with bound feet. And she has done it beautifully....... ~ Beverley Jackson - Author “SPLENDID SLIPPERS - A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition” Jo Farrell’s astonishingly beautiful images of women with bound feet reveal to us a world few have ever seen before. Her intimate, very human studies are the result of an ongoing collaboration built on complete mutual respect and trust between photographer and subject. It is wonderful to see this deeply compassionate artist, fully engaged in such a worthy endeavour. ~ Michael Kenna - Photographer It is only now after taking many years to get to know her subject that Jo Farrell has chosen to release an outstanding and unique portrait of women with bound feet. Jo’s unique approach has led to a collection of images that tell not only individual stories of the amazing women she befriended but also deep insight into the living history of the women of China with bound feet. ~ Steven Ballantyne, FRGS - CEO EPM, Producer and Explorer Jo Farrell’s project is a perfect blend of powerful photography mixed with historic record. The classic documentary approach opens up the lives of the women whose feet were bound, bringing us their stories and offering a glimpse into a practice that stretched back through the centuries. ~ Phil Coomes - Picture Editor, BBC News

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Living History: Bound Feet Women of China

Jo Farrell

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This book documents and celebrates the lives of some of the last remaining women in China with bound feet. Originally banned in 1912, the practice of footbinding continued in rural areas until around 1949 whereupon women with bound feet had the bindings forcibly removed. The women in this project are now in their late 80s and 90s. Footbinding was a custom in China that started many centuries ago. There is debate as to when the custom actually began. Based on tales from the Shang dynasty (1766-112 BC) and according to Howard S. Levy, the first reference to foot binding was 1130 AD (The Lotus Lovers: The Complete History of the Curious Erotic Custom of Footbinding in China). It gained wide popularity during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties. The practice was believed to have been started because an emperor saw a courtesan dancing on lily pads or maybe a ‘shape-shifting fox’ that entranced him. Other women of the court took to binding their feet as a way to gain favour. Footbinding was perpetuated by the philosophical teachings of Confucianism whereby women must follow 三从四德 San Cong Si De—the three obediences: honour and obey your father, husband, and son; and the four virtues: morality, proper speech, modest manner and diligent work. The foundation of a good society was based on filial piety 孝 —respect for your parents and elders. A girl who did not complain about footbinding would be considered a good wife prospect, as she was less likely to complain during the marriage. Most of the women I have spoken to explain it was just the normal way of life - refusing to have your feet bound would bring dishonour upon the family and no suitors. I have read articles about the footbinding ceremony but none of this rings true to the women I have met. There was no auspicious date chosen, no blood, urine or special liniments used to soften the feet. Most of the women that I have documented were rural peasant farmers—it was just done. The small toes would be wrapped under the foot, leaving the big toe forward, and long cotton bindings, like bandages, were stretched round the heel of the foot. Over a period of time the small bones in the toes would break beneath

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their weight and the arch would lift so that the heel would almost touch the metatarsals, creating a cavern. You will see from the photographs that the perfect form of the ‘lotus foot’ was not always achieved, as there were no guidelines and often the mothers implemented this in a very haphazard way; but the damage was done. Also, take into account that the majority of these women had their feet unbound 60 years ago and their feet have since spread. Most point out that they had much smaller feet when they were young: a statement of pride in their achievement. Mothers had to ignore their suffering as, in the long run, they were helping their daughter achieve a better life.

Wikimedia Commons

Why did footbinding stop? Chinese reformers had made unsuccessful attempts to curtail the practice of footbinding. The Opium War opened up China to the outside world–new traders and Christian missionaries came in and were horrified by this custom. It was a time when old traditions were looked down upon and with the move to modernisation China felt footbinding was holding the country back. In 1912, with the formation of the Republic of China, footbinding was banned but still continued in more isolated rural areas, first disappearing in the cities and later the countryside. Anti-footbinding societies were set up and local governments sent inspectors to villages to stop the practice. By the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1949 (during which people were penalised for the four olds: old habits, manners, customs, and culture), footbinding had been outlawed. Although considered fairly barbaric, it was nevertheless a tradition that enabled women to find a suitable partner. The girls in rural areas could marry into a family with more land or more sheep. In every culture there are forms of body modification that adhere to that culture’s perception of beauty or acceptance; from Botox, circumcision, FGM, breast augmentation, scarring and tattooing, to rib removals,

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toe tucks and labrets. All of the women that I have included in this project are peasant farmers working off the land in rural areas, away from the city life depicted so often in academia on foot binding. Theirs was not the life of beautifully-embroidered shoes and luxury lifestyles. The aim of this book is to capture and celebrate a piece of history that is currently rarely shown and will soon be lost forever. To go beyond the feet and capture a glimpse of these women and their lives for future generations to come. It has been a privilege to be part of their journey.

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Jo Farrell 2014

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Zhang Yun Ying


Zhang Yun Ying was the first woman with bound feet that I met [in 2006]. And these photographs were taken the first day that I met her. I held her foot in my hand and was amazed how soft and beautifully formed it was. Her feet were bound at seven years old and unbound in her 20s. I have visited her every year since 2006. She has her own bungalow house next door to her son’s home, and this year she welcomed her second grandchild.

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79 years old in 2006 1927 -


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Zhang Yun Ying


Zhang Yun Ying had her feet bound at ten years old. Now at 103 she claims she is only 99 as over that age sounds too old to be alive. She has nine children and every month moves to a different one by electric tricycle. I met her when she was staying with her fifth daughter in Dong Jiang village. The furthest she has travelled is 100km away to visit her eldest son.

103 years old in 2014 1910 -


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Zhang Yue Ying


Zhang Yue Ying had her feet bound at five years old; she remembers treating foot infections by rubbing limestone on them. On her wedding day they had to hide as the Japanese came to her village. A year later, at 17, she attended the local state school to learn to read and write; the school made her unbind her feet. She had to learn to walk again without bindings. Her inlaws were mad at her for going to school because they wanted her to work on the farm.

86 years old in 2014 1928 -

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Zhang Xiu Ling

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Her feet were bound at age seven by her mother. She was told that women would be laughed at if they had big feet. She was not willing to have her feet bound and sometimes unbound them to relieve the pain. Her mother scolded her and said that she will never marry. Zhang was married for 62 years; her husband died the month before I met her. I only met Zhang Xiu Ling on one occasion; the next year that I returned to her village she had moved to live with her daughter.

77 years old in 2007 1930 -


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Zhao Xiou Rong


Her mother died when she was seven years old, and therefore her aunt bound her feet. Her father remarried and her stepmother would remove the hard spots from her feet—it hurt so much that she ran away and afterwards her stepmother refused to help her again. At 12, the family made an arrangement with several matchmakers. Zhao did not agree at first as she was attending school and was afraid that she would have to stop. She was persuaded that this was a good family to be married into. 74 years old in 2007 1933 -

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Zhao Hua Hong


Zhao lived in a small room with her husband as her daughter-in-law did not want them to mess up the main rooms. Her husband, Wang Chang Fu [77], did all the talking as Zhao had suffered from a stroke three years before and could no longer talk and was partially deaf. Wang (like most of the farmers in rural areas) is illiterate, so most of their communication was done by him shouting. Her feet were bound at the age of 15-16 and they married in 1948 when she was 21 years old. 83 years old in 2010 1927 - 2012


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Yang Zi Ju


Yang Zi Ju bound her feet at the age of 12. Her two sisters also had their feet bound; they moved to different villages when they got married and have now passed away. Yang unbound her feet at the age of 20, the year she married, and her feet have grown bigger. It was not convenient for walking so she often took the bindings off. The furthest she has travelled is 3km away to her parents’ village. She has had Alzheimer’s since 2013 and can no longer talk.

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79 years old in 2010 1931 -


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Yang Yu Ying


75 years old in 2010 1935 -

When she was 11 years old they held a big birthday party for her grandfather, with lots of delicious food and people visiting their home. Everything was going well until her aunts start telling her that her feet were ugly, like boys’ feet. That afternoon her mother bound her feet. She didn’t cry. Yang Yu Ying married at 21 and her mother-in-law beat her regularly with a stick. Her happiest memory is after she unbound her feet (at 17) as she could go wherever she wanted to.


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Yang Jing é


Yang Jing é has the most beautifully kept home, in pale greens and pinks and with 80s Vogue-esque model posters everywhere. The last time I saw her in September 2014, she had just fractured her wrist after a fall during mid-Autumn Festival. She was staying with her son, who cooks Man Tou (local bread) for the village, whilst she was convalescing. Her feet were bound when she was five years old by her grandmother.

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87 years old in 2010 1923 -


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Yang Jing é


Yang Jing é has never unbound her feet and had kept her feet disguised from the government by wearing large shoes stuffed with socks. Her feet were originally bound at the age of six and they remained bound due to family pressure. She married in 1938 and had five children; her husband died in 1989. The furthest she has travelled is to Beijing, although at 97 years old she doesn’t remember much about it. 91 years old in 2010 1919 -


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Yang Hong Ying


Married at 17, she moved 4km to her husband’s village which took one and a half hours by sedan chair. Her mother forced her to have her feet bound at ten. She cleaned her feet every three days—she says her toes were a little broken and there was a small amount of blood but not a lot. Yang entered sewing competitions to see who was the fastest clothes maker; she is quicker than all the others. She recalls the Japanese coming to her village and eating all the village chickens.

80 years old in 2008 1928 -

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Xu Xiu Ying


Her mother taught her step-by-step how to bind her feet at the age of six. She married at 16 years old and unbound her feet when she had her first child at 18. Her husband worked in the field and she stayed home and knitted clothes to sell. Xu had three sons and a daughter; the boys were always causing trouble as children. Life was hard especially during the famine; there was no rice or flour to cook with. She has travelled to Kunming to visit relatives (4 hours by bus).

82 years old in 2011 1929 -


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Wang Xiu Ying


Like most girls in her village, her feet were bound by her mother when she was seven years old. She did not want to do it but it was considered necessary at that time. She unbound her feet when she was about 23 as “people’s minds had changed” about the tradition and because her father-in-law made her work in the fields. During the famine years they would cook grass roots and bark off the trees with noodles to survive; it was difficult to digest but without it they would die.

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80 years old in 2010 1930 -


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Wang Xiao Zhen


Wang Xiao Zhen had her feet bound at the age of seven; her mother led her around the yard with a belt to make her practise walking. Her marriage was arranged when she was three years old, and took place when she was 15. Wang recalls how hard it was to work in the fields with bound feet, especially when she was pregnant. She has five sons. The week after I visited her [September 2014] her third son died from liver problems; she had been tending to him every day. 78 years old in 2008 1930 -


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Wang Gui Feng


Although her childhood friends did not have bound feet, her mother bound her feet at age six. She was told that bound feet can make someone beautiful. Wang Gui Feng thinks that bound feet were a waste of time. She unbound her feet at 40 (47 years ago). Wang describes her wedding day as the most important day of her life; even though she was at first unwilling to leave her parents’ village she was welcomed by many of her new relatives in her husband’s village and her home for the past 64 years.

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83 years old in 2010 1927 -


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Wang Chun Rong


94 years old in 2014 1920 -

Even though she had her feet bound at the age of ten, as the oldest child she had to take care of her two little brothers and two little sisters. Her grandmother bound her feet in order to make her more pretty. She married at the age of 16 and her husband thought her feet were beautiful. She has been a farmer all her life. Wang Chun Rong confides that she hates goodbyes and will often fein a stomach ache in order to persuade people to stay longer. As I left, her daughter gave me a huge bag of fresh dates to take back to Hong Kong.


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Wan Zhao Shi


Her marriage was arranged by her parents at 15 and she was carried by sedan chair by eight people to her husband’s village. There were 50 tables at her wedding feast. Wan’s feet were bound at the age of six because it was the rule in feudal times. She worked in the fields and just wore socks until she came home and rebound her feet. She never unbound her feet because she was never asked to. Her grandchildren have taken her to Kunming and Shan Hai where she was amazed by the scenery and rich food. 89 years old in 2011 1922 -

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Tian Ji Yu


At the age of eight, her mother told her that ten days later she would have her feet bound, but she should not worry, as it was not painful and would be helpful to have a good marriage. She met her husband Li Yu Jie [86] through a friend rather than a matchmaker. He helps with the housework and often buys her flowers and sings her songs. They recently went to He Bei Province for a holiday; they learned a lot from their travels especially about looking after each other. 88 years old in 2013 1925 -


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Sun Bao Rong


When Sun Bao Rong stepped down from the sedan chair on her wedding day, the first thing her husband saw were her small feet. She thought they were beautiful at the time, but now thinks they are ugly. Sun was not forced to bind her feet, but chose to do it at the age of seven. She has four younger sisters, none of them bound their feet. Her mother-in-law didn’t have any daughters so treated Sun like one, combing her hair and making her shoes.

83 years old in 2014 1931 -

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Su Xi Rong


Su Xi Rong’s feet were bound at seven years old. She married at 21 and was thought to be the most beautiful woman in the village—because of her small, wellformed bound feet. Her grandmother would catch her trying to unbind her feet and she would be punished by having a slice of flesh cut off her toes. This used to greatly upset her grandmother, but it was considered necessary—because of feudal traditions women with large feet would not get married.

75 years old in 2008 1933 -


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Si Yin Zhin


A fiesty old lady—after I interviewed her she refused to have her feet photographed and locked herself in her room until a neighbour came to coax her out. I suddenly realised the neighbour, Wan Zhao Shi, also had bound feet—so, I asked her if she would like to be part of the project. Wan agreed which immediately brought Si Yin out of her room! Her feet were bound at age seven and she never unbound them. She has five sons and one daugher and lives with her second son.

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90 years old in 2011 1921 -


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Shi Xiu Ying


Shi Xiu Ying’s marriage was arranged when she was a baby, before her betrothed had been born. It is typical in these rural areas for the wife to be older than the husband. She married at 17 years old and had two older sister-in-laws who also had bound feet. They all helped each other bring up the children. She had four sons and three daughters. She lived with her second son, a farmer (68). The second year that I met Shi, she was sitting on the floor hand weaving cotton to sell. 88 years old in 2006 1918 - 2010


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Shao Feng Rong


Shao Feng Rong was married at 16 and had five children, three grand children and one great-grandchild. She remembers at the age of six playing in the yard and her mother called her home and bound her feet. When she was 14 the Japanese came to her village; she hid in a temple for two days whilst the ‘ghosts’ destroyed and burned the houses. She feels very lonely in her old age—her children rarely visit her. She likes to smoke as she is so bored.

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81 years old in 2010 1929 -


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Pue Hui Ying


On the first day of every month, Pue Hui Ying goes to the nearby city to participate in a bowling tournament. She has bowled for the past twenty years and has won first place in competitions held in Kunming. Her feet were bound at seven and briefly unbound at twelve. She married at 16 and recalls the clothes she wore—red jacket, blue trousers, green shoes, and red paper flowers in her hair. Her mother taught her to embroider her shoes with flowers. 76 years old in 2011 1935 -


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Ping Yao Lady


When visiting Beijing in 2007, I heard about the walled city of Ping Yao in Shanxi Province. I got an overnight train there and discovered the wonderful Qing and Ming dynasty dwellings. I was fortunate enough to stay with an urban designer who showed me around the city. I asked if there were any women with bound feet in the area and I was told no. On the last day I was taken 30 minutes outside the city to meet this woman with bound feet who was 100 years old. She had never seen a foreigner in real life before. 100 years old in 2007 1907 -

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Ma Zhen é


Ma Zhen é had her feet bound at seven years old. She cried so much that her grandfather complained, but he could not stop it. She unbound her feet at 30 years old, as women would be fined if they still had their feet bound—their cotton bindings would be hung out for everyone to see to humiliate and shame them. She is very healthy and strong—last year she helped put the chimney back on her roof in time for winter. 96 years old in 2014 1918 -


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Liu Xi Ying


Liu Xi Ying is one of my local translators’ stepgrandmothers, whom I only met briefly in 2008. Her mother bound her feet at the age of seven. She tells me that she has had six cildren and that pregnancy was difficult at that time because food and water were scarce even if you had money. She hasn’t been further than her village and all her children live nearby and visit regularly. She married at the age of 22 and unbound her feet at 25. Her husband loved her feet.

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76 years old in 2008 1932 -


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Liu Feng Luan


94 years old in 2014 1920 -

Kidnapped at the age of five, Liu Feng Luan has led a tragic life. She was taken from her own village so that she could be later sold off as a bride. She does not know where she came from and celebrates her unknown birthday every Spring Festival. She had ten children, all but one of whom died before the age of three during the famine. She lives with her son and daughter-inlaw who were extremely friendly and generous despite their own poverty. Her only grandchild died of Leukemia at the age of 19. The house has no heating, so even in early November she was cocooned in her bed. Out of the bedside wall sprung a kitten that she enjoys playing with.


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Lin Zhan Rong


As a child she helped sell Man Tou (local bread) on the streets and when she turned ten she stayed at home to do weaving. Her feet were bound when she was nine— her mother told her she would not get married unless her feet were bound. Lin married at 17 after being introduced to her future husband by her uncle. She unbound her feet at 20 because of the new society and government. Her youngest son has bought the land next to her house and lives with her, in the hope that he will inherit the house. 87 years old in 2014 1927 -

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Liang Hong Rong


Married at 19, her mother-in-law always complained that her son had married such an ugly wife! Her feet were bound at seven years old and as a child she would be carried on her father’s back as she couldn’t walk. She has a Buddhist shrine and believes that offering the best food to Buddha will give her great-grandson a better life. During the Japanese occupation if they saw the house believed in Buddhism they would leave it alone. 92 years old in 2014 1922 -


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Li Xiu Rong


Li Xiu Rong is satisfied that she had a good life. She thinks she is too old and has too many wrinkles and is no longer pretty. Her granddaughter says she is always talking to herself, but noone listens. She tells me to come back soon as all the old ladies with bound feet will be dead within five years. Li had her feet bound at age seven and unbound her feet at 20. She worked in the fields most of her life, including when she was pregnant with both children.

75 years old in 2008 1933 -

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Li Xi Ying


Every girl in her village had their feet bound at seven years old. Her mother sewed the cotton bindings shut, so she could not remove them even though at the beginning it was too painful to fall asleep. The furthest she has travelled is a 40-minute bus ride to the nearest city to see her dying cousin; the journey made her sick. She says that her sons have all got married—her duty is done and, with her grandson, life is complete.

84 years old in 2014 1930 -


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Li Shi


Li Shi had her feet bound at the age of 11. It was very painful, and she would loosen the bindings when her mother went out—she was never caught. Married at 17, the 1.5km journey to her husband’s village took an hour by sedan chair. Her family gave her a wedding chest and two blue quilts made by her mother. She later unbound her feet as everyone in the village said that it was time to take the bindings off, or the government will punish you. Li Shi worked in the fields planting and harvesting most of her life. 87 years old in 2007 1920 -

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Li Shen Shi


When she first saw a bound foot she was scared as she knew it was also her own fate. Her feet were bound at the age of six and she was married at 13. When she had free time from her field work she would take her husband, a fisherman, lunch; he died in 1981. She was taught embroidery by her mother who made her wedding shoes and Li still makes and sells embroidery pieces. She gave me a baby’s bib she had embroidered that said “Protect Life and Long Life.” 86 years old in 2011 1925 -


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Li Guang Ying


Married at the age of 15 (her husband was 12), she treated him like a little brother until she was 21. Her feet were bound at age seven, because if you did not bind them you were made to work in the fields. She unbound her feet very slowly, as it was too painful to do at one go. The feet were used to being compressed and she had to learn to walk differently. Her parents died when she was young, and she feels life has been extremely hard on her. At this pont Li Guang Ying stopped the interview saying that she is just an orphan, so feels that she has nothing to say.

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86 years old in 2014 1928 -


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Li Bing Rong


88 years old in 2010 1922 -

Li Bing Rong bound and unbound her feet at the age of eight—but the damage had already been done. Her toes are misshapen due to the binding. Her mother regretted doing it, so unbound her feet early. She married at the age of 18 into a village 15km away; it took two hours to get to her new home on her wedding day travelling by sedan chair. When I first met her she had a small one-room house surrounded by her allotment. Today she lives with her fourth son and daughter-in-law.


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Jiang Hua Ying


At 11 years old, Jiang Hua Ying bound her feet herself; no one helped her. It hurt but she didn’t cry because it was the only way to be more beautiful. Her mother and her grandmother both had bound feet. She went to primary school until the Japanese bombed it, killing two children. Both her sons went to college and have good jobs in the city. I spent mid-Autumn Festival with Jiang and we gathered dates (zao) from her garden, which has over 26 date trees.

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79 years old in 2014 1935 -


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Hou Jun Rong


Hou Jun Rong had her feet bound at seven years old. When she was a teenager, she shared a pair of shoes with her sister (six years younger). Her sister married a man in Hou village and therefore stayed nearer the family. Hou Jun Rong married at 19 and worked in the fields harvesting cotton and sweet potatoes. During the Cultural Revolution she had to dig water channels in a nearby village—everyone ate in the dining hall together, so if you did not work, you did not eat. 78 years old in 2007 1929 -


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Huo Guan Yu


Her sister taught her how to bind her feet at six years old and they remained bound until 2010. She doesn’t recall why she unbound them so late on but says that she now needs help with binding and noone does it right. Her husband fell fatally ill in the 1950s; she could not afford the hospital bills, so she worked making biscuits to buy his medicine. She had three sons, but they have also died. She lives with her daughter-in-law who has been in the family for 60 years; she is like a daughter to her.

89 years old in 2010 1921 -

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Guo Ting Yu


I have spent many happy hours and meals with Guo Ting Yu and her husband Ding Chuan Liang. As Guo says, “It’s grandpa’s job to cook the food, and it’s my job to eat the food!” Her mother (who had bound feet) was unwilling to bind her feet, so at 15 she did it herself, after watching her mother. It was painful but they looked beautiful. Her husband spent 30 years working in a clothes dying factory in Jinan (two hours away) and could only come home twice a year.

83 years old in 2010 1927 -


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Gong Xiu Ying


Her feet were bound at age 11, the same day as her big sister had her feet bound. Their mother told them that if they had big feet everyone would laugh at them. Afterwards, her grandfather would not let her leave the house, so she stayed in doors weaving cotton until she married at 18. She remembers being carried by sedan chair from her village on her wedding day, people were kowtowing to her and giving her flowers and money. They were very poor during the famine years; they had to dig wells for water and make buns with leaves from the willow tree. 81 years old in 2010

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1929 -


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Gong Xiu Xing


Gong Xiu Xing had her feet bound at 15 and married at 17 years old. She remembers that on her wedding day she was carried by sedan chair from her parents village 3km away. She has one son and two grandchildren. Her happiest moment was when he grandson was born and she now tends to him everyday. She lives on her son’s farm and looks after the horse and helps with the harvest. 81 years old in 2010 1929 -


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Gong He Xiu


Gong He Xiu had her feet bound in 1931 at the age of seven as her mother thought bound feet were beautiful, although she did not bind her younger sister’s feet. She married in 1941 and her mother bought her clothes for the wedding but she had to sell them later on so that she could buy food. Gong’s husband didn’t pay much attention to her feet. She has lived with her son and his wife for the past 30 years.

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84 years old in 2008 1924 -


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Fu Xiu Shang


Fu Xiu Shang married at the age of 25; her husband was 33. On her wedding day she wore a purple dress with lotus flowers on and was carried by sedan chair to her husband’s village six miles away. At around the age of ten she was told it was time to have her feet bound, otherwise she would never marry. She unbound her feet because the old tradition was ‘broken’, the new society of China was set up so everyone removed the bindings. 82 years old in 2014 1932 -


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Fu Feng é


She had her feet bound at nine and could no longer play games with her friends, so she would jump on their backs. This village is near the river and therefore there is a lot of shrimp farming and selling. Fu gets up at 4am most mornings to go sort and sell shrimp in the market. She had been married twice—which is apparently common in this county. After her first husband died of appendicitis, her parents arranged a second marriage. She has travelled to Beijing.

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80 years old in 2014 1934 -


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Dong Shi Ying


Her sister bound her feet when she was seven years old. She married at 17 and received the customary wedding chest but it had nothing in it. She unbound her feet over 25 years ago. At 90 she has no health problems, but her memory is fading. Dong Shi Ying’s daughter-in-law cooks for her as she is too old to do it herself.

90 years old in 2010 1920 -


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Ding Pei Lan


Ding Pei Lan fractured her hip seven years ago, when falling off the bed [K’ang] to say goodbye to a visitor; she has been bed-ridden ever since. Her mother bound her feet at the age of eight and beat her if she tried to unbind them. She married at the age of 18 and unbound her feet on the promise she could go to night school. Her husband’s village was also where her grandmother had lived. She has five children, 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and four great-greatgrandchildren. Ding tells me that she doesn’t confuse things—she remembers everything. She thinks she is too old to be alive, and hopes that she will fall asleep and never wake up.

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95 years old in 2014 1919 -


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Cao Shi Lian


Cao had her feet bound at age eleven. Her family moved from Cao village to Tan village when the Japanese came in 1936. She married at 18 through a matchmaker and her husband was very glad that she had bound feet. She was carried by sedan chair and received one large and one small chest of clothes. Her mother-inlaw treated her very well; as an equal. Cao’s two sons are farmers in the her village; her daughter moved to Wang village when she got married. 85 years old in 2008 1923 -


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Cao Mei Ying


Cao Mei Ying’s feet were bound at three years old and she only unbound them in 1999. In the 1940s when officals told her to remove the bindings she recalled her mother telling her that she must not unbind them. She had strong hands and would not let my hand go, demanding that I stay with her. It was the first time I realised that these village women often become invisible at an old age and life just goes on around them. Then someone comes into their life and wants to know about them and they welcome them in.

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87 years old in 2009 1922 -


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Cao Jing Ying


Her feet were bound at the age of six. When I first met Cao Jing Ying she lived in her own home (her brotherin-law’s house), grew vegetables in the garden and had a cat. Her husband died at 52 from lung cancer. Her eye sight has deteriorated over the years and she can no longer look after herself and therefore alternates between living with one of her four married sons. On my last visit in 2014, her son threatened to call the police if I ever came to visit her again. 76 years old in 2009 1934 -


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♥♥♥♥♥ Bradley and Jonina Skaggs Caroline Thompson Cheryl Twomey Grant Me the Wisdom Foundation Jennifer S. Deayton Julia Campbell Lari Diaz Laura Mazzeo Mary Connolly and James Turner Mr and Mrs Matthew Perry Mike and Judy Perry Rosie Noll Sir Terry Farrell and Mei Xin Wang ♥♥♥♥ Abraham Boyd Ann De Smedt Anne Fitzpatrick Anonymous (2) Benjamin Goubly Beverly Dolson and ​ Shawn Bruins Christine Lee Colin and Heather Boswell Dan Cheetham Daupez Chantal Dave Adair David Scott Denise Kwong & Paul Collins Douglas J Oleson ​Emily Goble Smith Exene Cervenka Ines Ehrmann Janice Tong Julie Booth Kate Padget-Koh Kym Nayda LJ Ferrara Mae Lim Maggie Jones Marc Eric Barda Picavet Melissa R Schwartz Michael Kenna Neil and Liz Avern-Briers Norris Hill Peter Lord Q Sandra Fontano Sjdormody Tevilla Riddell Trey Hua Truddy Cheung Vincent Assante Di Cupillo Welbi Lacerda Yan Sham-Shackleton

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♥♥♥ Alan Kong Alice Gibson Alice Sharville Aly Phee Anastasia and Lorin Andrew Fisher Andrew Putler Andy Frazer Angel Xu Anjie Lee Anna Vuong Anonymous (3) Audrey Cardot Audrey S. L. Quay Barri Spaoznikoff Noll Benoit Tordeur Bree Phillips Brumley Daniel Pritchett, Jr. Bryce Tom C Lewis C Ryono Casey and Maddie Tiedens Cathy Rodriguez Celine Kwok Chai Reynaud Cheryle Robinson Jackson Cheryl Ip Chin-hsin Liu Christian DuCharme Christine, Luke, Cass & Kitty Craig Payne Daniel Stirton Daniela Ratcheva Debra Powers Dennis Brunner Dennis P. Gehr Dorothy-Clare Jacobs Douglas Candano Elsa Aevarsdottir Elisabeth C. Bailey Elton Lin Eng Tze Ng Faye Shortal Garry M Brown Jr Huang Chan Rong Ian Lambot Irine Lui Jack Newman Jacqueline Sadashige James KaHo Chung Jeanne O’Connell Jenna Stoll Jennifer Li Johnny Davis Jonathan Pestana Judy A. Ospital Kaityn Armitano Karen Ferriere

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Thank you to all those that have contributed to the Living History: Bound Feet Women of China project

Karen Jean Poa Kathryn Marr Kevin Peterson Kelly-Ann Semper Kitty Lai Kristen Graff-Baker Lauren Adeline Kirkwood Lee Jensen Lilna Klauss Linda Barnes and Tony Webster Lindsay Hammond Louise and Greg Maguire Lorenzo Dutto Lucia Althea Ke Luisa Cescutti-Butler Lydia Nagel MacKenzie Canniff-Tiernay Madeline Cirino Mäit Foulkes Manfred Havenith Marie Latham Margaret Dean Mark Hahn Dr. Martin and Janet Rudolph Martha Weis Mary V. Thompson Melissa Ong Michael Duxbury Arch. Michele Giavarini Michelle Ip Michelle Brown Millington F McCoy Nancy Golden Nancy Jones Niki and Chloe Silgar Patricia Bourne Paul, Michele, and Casey Paula Footer Robert Hardin-Leeth Robert Khoe Ruud Nijhuis S M Y Ling Stephenie Cheng-LaBoyne Stephanie Lloyd Steve Bernstein Sue Martin Susie Tanya Palmer Tel Amiel Tianne and Yam Ki Chan Tiffany Redding Tina Xie toeslayer Tomas and Stacey Krynsky Trisha Uy V A H Kao Valerie Tan and Chris Dobson VeronicaLynn Parx Vivien Yee

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Wai-Yee Chan Walter Brattelli Wendy Wong Yongcheng Benjamin Tan Zhe Ji ♥♥ Alex Martinelli Anita Habig Anonymous Baptiste Henriot Camile Betances Christine Wilkerson Connie Dee Butler Erica Jong Jen Harris Julie Gendich Kat Pankam Kathleen Horgan Kester Lait Farrell Kevin A Kline Loralee MacPike and Mary McArthur M E Chaney Mary Page Mary-Rose Engle Megan N Bible Michelle G Michelle James Paul and Esther Rowley Rebecca Shearin Sala Sihombing Sonia P. Sanchez-Lopez Terri Cook Trena Partee Zelda Cheatle ★★★★★ Blake Cecilia Ip Echo Elyn Enny Lee Faulkner Scott Dietrich Yang Yuan Ming Yao Zhang

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Photo: © Calvin Sit, Time Out HK, 2014

Jo Farrell Jo Farrell is a black & white photographer and cultural anthropologist, born in London, England. For the past seven years she has been based in Hong Kong and travels regularly to Mainland China to spend time with the women with bound feet in this project. Her main interest is to capture on film traditions and cultures that are dying out.

The moment I picked up a Hasselblad I fell in love. The images I can produce with it have so much depth. I think analogue photography is an art form, with only 12 frames on a roll you have to be precise in every aspect. This extends to the printing of silver gelatin prints in the darkroom, where the process of creating a fine art print is such a rewarding experience. You are bringing life into your work. All my photographs are printed full-frame showing the black negative borders; I don’t believe in cropping after the fact—it should be done in camera. I also think that using a Hasselblad 503C is very apt for photographing traditions and cultures that are dying out as the majority of professional photographers are turning to digital now. Photography is my life. Nothing else has come close to the passion and motivation I feel when I am alone with the camera. Photography as in most art forms can be very solitary. It is a balance, as the gratification I get with sharing my work and these women’s stories is a great reward. My hope is that these photographs will find their place in a prominent museum or gallery and a major book will be published on this project. Design and Production: Jo Farrell Photographs: Hasselblad 503C & iPhone ALL b&w photographs © Jo Farrell 2014

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Profile for jo farrell

Living History: Bound Feet Women of China  

Photographer and cultural anthropologist Jo Farrell has spent the last nine years documenting the last remaining women with bound feet. This...

Living History: Bound Feet Women of China  

Photographer and cultural anthropologist Jo Farrell has spent the last nine years documenting the last remaining women with bound feet. This...

Profile for jofar