Photograph from Peabody and Essex Museum
Foot binding was the sign of beauty for women in China of this time period. In order for a woman to be thought of as beautiful her feet needed to be between 3-5 inches. This type of mutilation of the feet was necessary for women to be married, and especially if they wanted to marry a wealthy man. Tiny feet represented femininity and civility for Chinese women during the Neo-Confucian era of China. If a girl had tiny feet but a plain face it did not matter she still embodied beauty and sensuality, and would be able to be married.
The photograph above would have been a posed shot of a Chinese girl of some wealth, taken by a Western Photographer.
The photograph shows a young girl seated, not looking directly at the camera. She has her hair pinned up in a style that would been seen of other women in the time period. She is wearing long draping clothing that covers most of her body and fears out at the arms and at her knees. Her pants and sleeves seem to be highly embroidered. It is hard to tell from the colorless image but the cloth especially on her legs looks like it could be a silky material. The full attention of the view is drawn to the tiny feet just poking out of the long embroidered pant legs with beautiful embellished shoes. Lastly the girls face is plain with a blank stare. There is no make up on her face and no sort of embellishment around it. The plain face and the plain long putter shirt take the attention away from the girls head and has the viewer looking down towards the beautiful pant legs and the tiny little shoes that are almost lost in the pants. The size, shape, texture, and style of the clothing makes the body seem hidden. As if it is swimming in all of this cloth and is lost until the view sees the tiny feet. The feet are also hidden away but the sea of cloth above it makes the feet look so dainty.
rich source of denotations and what does it suggest?
Except for the face and the hands no other part of the girl is being shown, and her feet are almost being hidden. This adds to the mystery. Men of this time would have never seen the women with unbound feet, even when they were married. The beauty was in the concealment. The men would have to wonder what the feet looked liked because women tried to hide them away, like seen in the photograph above.
The girl is seen with a plain face but yet she is still considered very beautiful, the beauty of the girls face really does not matter much at all. What matters is how small she can make her feet and how well she can draw attention to them. By embellishing the lower half of her body the girl has everyone looking for her tiny feet and not at her plain face, and she is considered very beautiful.
how does the notion of beauty find explanations from those denotations?