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The Last Woman To Follow China’s 1000-Year-Old Foot-Binding Tradition Shows The Damage Done


Extreme bodily modifications have been around since the dawn of mankind. The practices range far and wide around the world, and include:

  • Lip stretching
  • Teeth Sharpening
  • Ear and cheek piercing

With time, beauty standards evolved and most of these practices are not necessary, only symbolic markers of the past. This includes the old age Chinese practice of foot binding.

Women today are used to engaging in all sorts of beautifying practices that would have seemed strange hundreds of years ago. Hair dying, plucking and shaving seem tame compared to the practice of shrinking feet by breaking them, however.

Zhou Guizhen, 86, is one of the few remaining women who lived at the time when foot-binding was a common practice in China. Even though it was outlawed in 1912, women still found a way to fool authorities so they could continue with the practice.


Foot binding was a practice that involved applying tight bandages to the feet of young girls as young as 4 years old in order to prevent them from growing. This was done starting from a very young age because of how soft the bones are at that age.


Each toe would be snapped to curl as close to the heel as possible, except for the big toe. The routine was usually simple but devastating: wrapping and unwrapping the feet until they were no bigger than 4 inches.


The practice started in the early T’ang Dynasty (618-907 DC). It was usually only practiced by the wealthy, and men thought it made women more attractive.


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