The practice became increasingly common among the gentry families, later spreading to the general population, as commoners and theatre actors alike adopted footbinding.By the Ming period, the practice was no longer the preserve of the gentry, but it was considered a status symbol.You'll find complete galleries of all the samples above in our members section, together with much much more.

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This practice was called "toast to the golden lotus" and lasted until the late Qing dynasty..

However, no other foreign visitors to Yuan China mentioned the practice, including Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo (who nevertheless noted the dainty walk of Chinese women who took very small steps), perhaps an indication that it was not a widespread or extreme practice at that time.

The Manchus issued a number of edicts to ban the practice, first in 1636 when the Manchu leader Hong Taiji declared the founding of the new Qing dynasty, then in 1638, and another in 1664 by the Kangxi Emperor.

However, few Han Chinese complied with the edicts and Kangxi eventually abandoned the effort in 1668.

Foot-binding resulted in lifelong disabilities for most of its subjects, and a few elderly Chinese women still survive today with disabilities related to their bound feet.

There are a number of stories about the origin of foot binding, one of these involves the story of a favorite consort of the Southern Qi emperor Xiao Baojuan, Pan Yunu (died 501 AD), who had delicate feet and danced barefoot on a floor decorated with golden lotus flower design.

The emperor expressed admiration and said that "lotus springs from her every step!

" (步步生蓮), a reference to the Buddhist legend of Padmavati under whose feet lotus springs forth.

Walking on bound feet necessitated bending the knees slightly and swaying to maintain proper movement and balance, a dainty walk that was also considered erotic to some men.