LIFESTYLE

Chinese Foot Binding: These Pictures Expose The Barbaric Reality Of The Ancient Tradition

12/06/2014 15:45 BST | Updated 12/06/2014 16:59 BST

Warning: Graphic Pictures

For most of us the idea of wearing a pair of shoes that are even one size too small is unbearable - but for centuries women in China bound their feet to make them appear smaller than their natural size.

The act of foot binding, which was carried out in China from the 10th century, was meant to show a woman would make a good wife because she was uncomplaining. It's safe to say that if that were a key indicator in our relationships, we remain single forever.

Hong Kong photographer Jo Farrell has captured pictures of women who were subjected to this painful practice in their youth.

chinese feet

Foot binding was banned in 1911, making these women - all in their 80s and 90s - some of the last remaining to have experienced the barbaric tradition.

Jo, who launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for more photographs, explains why foot binding became commonplace.

feet 5

"Match-makers or mother-in-laws required their son's betrothed to have bound feet as a sign that she would be a good wife (she would be subservient and without complaint)," she writes on her Kickstarter page.

"A tradition that started in the Song Dynasty, it was originally banned in 1911. It continued in rural areas until around 1939 whereupon women with bound feet had the bindings forcibly removed by government decree. "

feet 2

The procedure itself sounds pretty brutal - toenails were clipped before feet were soaked in hot water or in a concoction of ingredients (ranging from various herbs and nuts to urine and warm animal blood) in order to soften the tissue.

After, the feet were massaged and doused with alum. All the toes apart from the big one were then broken and folded under the sole before the whole foot was bound in tight cloth.

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Eventually the arch of the foot would also break, enabling feet to be pulled straight with the leg.

feet 3

Writing on her Kickstarter page, Jo says: "In every culture there are forms of body modification that adhere to that cultures' perception of beauty. From Botox, FGM, breast augmentation, scarring and tattooing, to rib removals, toe tucks and labrets.

"I believe that this project is of international importance to be included in museums and anthropological studies into traditions and cultures."