Malaysia's 93-year-old "lotus" woman regrets bound feet

Wed May 26, 2010 5:31am EDT
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By Angie Teo

SEKINCHAN, Malaysia (Reuters Life!) - Lim Guan Siew once had bound feet that were considered the height of feminine beauty in China, but the 93-year-old who now lives in Malaysia says it is a fate she wishes she had avoided.

Lim, whose family fled Fujian province in southern China in 1946 during the country's civil war and settled in Malaysia, was born in 1917 and first had her feet bound when she was seven years old.

Foot binding was officially banned in 1912, but families continued the practice despite it being illegal, especially in remote areas.

"My family wasn't very rich, but I bound my feet just because I wanted to get married," the softly-spoken woman said in her home in Sekinchan, a small Malaysian town some 90 kms (56 miles) from the Malaysian capital.

Instead of the 3-inch "golden lotus" feet that many rich families aspired to when their daughters' feet were bound, Lim's now unbound feet have grown to 5 inches in length, but she still needs special shoes, manufactured locally to fit her.

Lim is one of a very few ethnic Chinese women who still have to live with their deformity. Many have passed away.

Aged seven, Lim's mother started the process of breaking and binding her daughter's feet to achieve the then-ideal of perfection and Lim recalls bathing her feet every three to five days in order to bend them the desired pointed shape.

It took Lim more than a year before she said she could walk again with feet that had been molded to conform to an ideal that pervaded some parts of China from the 10th century to the start of the 20th.   Continued...