FootBinding: Search for the Three Inch Golden Lotus

FootBinding: Search for the Three Inch Golden Lotus

Release date:

2003

Running time:

46 minutes

Formats:

Available on DVD

Closed Captioned:

Yes

Availability in North America:

Available in CanadaAvailable in the US

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  • Audience level:
  • Elementary School
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English and various Chinese dialects with English subtitles

"If you love your daughter, bind her feet; if you love your son, let him study," or so goes the old Chinese saying. Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Yue-Qing Yang returns to her birthplace to unravel the secrets of footbinding, an ancient Chinese custom that saw a sculpted three-inch foot become the feminine ideal. In interviews with aging Chinese women, including her own mother and aunt, Yue-Qing begins to grasp the complexity of this once widespread practice.

A thousand years ago, an emperor expressed a preference for women with small feet and his fancy quickly trickled down to the poorer classes. Less interested in aesthetics than in securing wealthy husbands for their daughters, many believed footbinding was a vital right of passage. Four billion Chinese women would have their feet bound before communists banned the practice in 1949.

In her travels across today's China, Yue-Qing encounters great difficulty finding archival material and even greater resistance convincing elderly women to reveal their re-shaped feet to the camera. She meets many villagers who continue to idealize the grace of the lotus-feet woman and shoe collectors who discuss the exquisite art and sexuality of footbinding. She also visits the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, where Columbia University Professor Dorothy Ko mounts her show Every Step a Lotus and contends that footbinding was not the tragedy modern thinkers make it out to be.

Both personal journey and political awakening, Yue-Qing's deeply affecting documentary dwells ultimately on the deep scars footbinding has left for generations of Chinese women.

Award(s): Kathleen Shannon Award, Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival

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