The Golden Lily Shoe


These shoes are part of a foreign shoe collection housed in the Archives & Special Collections. The collection was part of the Steinheim Museum collection at Alfred University.
The Golden Lily is the name for shoes made for foot binding in China. It refers to the perfect 3-inch, lotus shape for the female foot. Feet longer than three inches received names like silver or steel lily. Foot binding was a horrifyingly painful process that involved breaking the foot to force it into the unnatural lotus shape. Mothers and grandmothers who sought to see their daughters well married perpetuated foot binding even more than men because mothers chose who their sons would marry. The size of a woman’s feet, and the quality of her embroidery determined her value on the marriage market.
As foot binding became popular across multiple classes, artificial bindings, like shoes that made the foot look smaller without breaking it, also grew in popularity. These superficial bindings remained popular with some men, particularly actors and whores. In 1911, with the fall of the Qing Dynasty, foot binding was finally outlawed.

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