Manual Bound by Desire

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Thursday 20 June Saturday 22 June Sunday 23 June Monday 24 June Tuesday 25 June Wednesday 26 June Thursday 27 June Friday 28 June Saturday 29 June Sunday 30 June Monday 1 July Tuesday 2 July Wednesday 3 July Thursday 4 July Friday 5 July Saturday 6 July Sunday 7 July Monday 8 July Tuesday 9 July Wednesday 10 July Friday 12 July Sunday 14 July Monday 15 July Tuesday 16 July Wednesday 17 July Thursday 18 July Friday 19 July Saturday 20 July Sunday 21 July Monday 22 July Tuesday 23 July Wednesday 24 July Thursday 25 July Friday 26 July Saturday 27 July Sunday 28 July Monday 29 July Tuesday 30 July Wednesday 31 July Thursday 1 August Friday 2 August Saturday 3 August Sunday 4 August Monday 5 August Tuesday 6 August Wednesday 7 August Thursday 8 August Friday 9 August Saturday 10 August Sunday 11 August Monday 12 August Tuesday 13 August Wednesday 14 August Thursday 15 August Friday 16 August Saturday 17 August Sunday 18 August Monday 19 August Tuesday 20 August Wednesday 21 August Thursday 22 August Friday 23 August Saturday 24 August Sunday 25 August Monday 26 August Tuesday 27 August Wednesday 28 August Thursday 29 August Friday 30 August Saturday 31 August Sunday 1 September Monday 2 September Tuesday 3 September Wednesday 4 September Thursday 5 September Friday 6 September Saturday 7 September Sunday 8 September Monday 9 September Tuesday 10 September Wednesday 11 September Thursday 12 September Friday 13 September Saturday 14 September Sunday 15 September Monday 16 September Tuesday 17 September Wednesday 18 September Thursday 19 September Friday 20 September Saturday 21 September Sunday 22 September Monday 23 September Tuesday 24 September Wednesday 25 September Thursday 26 September Friday 27 September Saturday 28 September Sunday 29 September Monday 30 September With the help of two nurses, she tries to balance her bulky frame on a pair of cruelly deformed, diminutive feet.

For almost nine decades, "Granny" Yuan, as she is affectionately known, has waddled and limped. Her feet stopped growing when she was five, after being bound in accordance with an ancient feudal Chinese custom. Today they are clad in childlike, blue felt booties.

Bound by Desire by Revocation

Granny Yuan has never been without pain since the morning, 88 years ago, when her mother started to wrap her small feet using long strips of rough cotton. I will never forget the pain on that first day.

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It was terrible," she says. Playtime was never to be the same again for Granny Yuan. Wearing oversized men's padded trousers and a woollen cardigan over a blue Mao-style tunic, Granny Yuan's weather-beaten face breaks into a smile. She cackles as she recalls releasing her feet defiantly from their barbaric wrappings. Pushing strands of iron-grey hair behind her ears, she shouts loudly, a symptom of her near-deafness: "In bed at night, I would open the binds on my feet. I would try and wrap them up again in the morning so no one would notice.

But my mother discovered what I was doing and she sowed the binds on to prevent it happening again.


Sometimes the pain was so intense that Granny Yuan would put her feet on the cold, stone bed surround for relief. But only a little," she said, as her mind rolled back to the early years of the last century to recall the harrowing experience. Granny Yuan was not alone. Hundreds of millions of women across China had to bear excruciating pain in order to conform to the custom of foot-binding, a practice that lasted almost 1, years from the 10th century until the early s.

Isolated cases of foot-binding were reported until as late as when Mao Zedong enforced the law banning it. Foot-binding was the act of wrapping a young girl's feet so as to bend the toes under the soles, breaking the bones and forcing the back and front of the underneath of the foot together. Its purpose was to produce a tiny foot, the "golden lotus", which was three inches long and thought to be lovely and alluring. The golden lotus originated during the Southern Tang dynasty in around AD when the emperor, Li Yu, ordered his favourite concubine, Fragrant Girl, to bind her feet with silk bands and dance on a golden lotus platform encrusted with pearls and gems.

Thereafter, women inside and outside the court began taking up strips of cloth and binding their feet, thinking them beautiful and distinguished, dainty and elegant.

Bound by Desire by Tempeste O'Riley | Dreamspinner Press

It was not until the Q'ing Dynasty that foot-binding became universal across China and the foot became regarded as the most private part of the body and for a husband's eyes only. During this era, binding a child's foot was regarded as a natural thing to do. A child with unbound feet was considered an outcast. The bound foot came to represent the pinnacle of sexual gratification, and took on the allure of a sexual organ in its own right. The perfect foot was shaped like a tiny triangle with a high arch wedged into delicate, colourful shoes.

Over the centuries, the practice came to be supported by most women, who believed that it promoted health and fertility. The reality was that bound feet had no such benefits, were crippling, and resulted in complications such as ulceration, paralysis and gangrene. Some historians estimate that 10 per cent of girls did not even survive the "treatment".

For Chinese men, these golden lotuses had both an aesthetic and sexual appeal. Bound feet were associated with higher-status love and sex. They became a sexual fetish and were said to be conducive to better intercourse. Men who loved bound feet were known as "lotus lovers".

Granny Yuan achieved the so-called perfect foot. The process was excruciatingly painful. She would then fold all my toes except my big toe back towards the sole of my feet," she explains. The big toe was left to form the lotus point.

Bound by Desire

The cotton bindings were used to wrap the four small toes, forcing the top of the foot to arch upwards. Granny Yuan was lucky that she did not suffer bleeding or infection. But she knew of cases where wrapped feet would ooze blood. Toes would fall off. Some of her friend's rotting feet stank. When we visit, Granny Yuan allows a nurse to take off a sock to show us the result of the foot-binding.

It's quite shocking to see.

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Her big toe forms an ugly point, while her four other toes are bent back and blended underneath into the back of her foot. Her heel is a clumsy, bulky stump. Many decades after binding, her skin still looks raw and chapped.

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She stopped wrapping them when she was 12 and the process was complete. Today in China, there are still thousands of foot-binding survivors. Elderly women bearing the marks of this near-barbaric practice can be found in Beijing's courtyard dwellings and in villages all over the country.