source: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011)
During the Neo-Confucian ages in China, foot binding was a prevalent and deep-rooted cultural tradition. This multifaceted act of physical mutilation and ornamental embellishment was also, depending on time and perspective, dynamically symbolic of wen civility, the familial system, sexuality, femininity, character, and nationalism. This snapshot image of an intimate moment of a newly wedded husband delicately holding and examining his new wife’s bound feet in the foreground while the wife blends into the background is representative of the fetishization and disproportional importance of bound feet, the small foot as the epitome of the beauty aesthetic, and the paradox of concealment and modest exposure that contributes to sensuality. your argument?
Through a purely aesthetic lens, the viewer of the image is first struck by the obvious color scheme of the scene. With bold reds, blacks, and browns in varying shades and lighting, the color subconsciously guides our eyes and thus our focus. For instance, the two subjects of the image have wardrobes of dark color, both the female and male wearing a predominantly brown wardrobe. However, the female’s lower leg and foot are clothed in a vibrant red, contrasting with its surroundings and bringing the viewer’s attention to the bound foot, (the bound foot could be the first point of attraction) conveying that the foot is actually the true subject of the image, and subject of the man’s desires. Furthermore, the woman is on the edge of the image basically blending into the background while the man is placed in the foreground but half-cloaked in shadow. The image shows that the foot itself is of more concern and importance than the person it belongs to. Instead of the two human characters in the scene, the foot is given the complete spotlight. This emphasis that is placed on the foot through lighting and color in this context demonstrates that the bound foot transcends the visible and physical and signifies the disproportional importance of a small foot in marriage and its general importance in the lives of wives, husbands, and the Chinese.
structure of foot then color and light
the bound foot and veiled face indicate that …. Also, a veil covers the woman’s face, her body is draped in layers, and her husband’s gaze is solely focused on her lower leg and foot. This intense combination of admiration and analysis, even celestial reverence, that the husband shows for the singular foot highlights the lack of those same feelings towards his wife as a whole. Even more, upon first glance, the woman’s presence is unnoticeable, minimal at best, unlike her center-displayed foot. Ultimately, this strategic placement of the wife and the purposeful tunnel-vision of the husband portrays the ideology that the foot holds the most beauty and deserves to be admired, while the face and body of a wife is of little concern to the husband. The small foot was the only physical trait that assigned beauty value to a woman and set a beauty standard for a man.
The fetishization of the foot against the spatial setting of the wedding chamber suggests that …. Lastly, this scene seems to be set in an intimate environment with the woman sitting on a bed and many curtains and drapes around the two characters. The fetishization and focus placed on the foot provides a sexual undercurrent to the image while the setting casts a sensual and intimate light onto the subjects. Though the woman’s body is very concealed (even her face is covered), the foot peeks out of her long robe, modestly titillating the audience and husband. Thus, I would argue that the paradox of concealment and modest exposure contributes to the subdued but present sensuality expressed in this image and many romantic relationships during neo-Confucian China. Through careful examination, we observe that the symbolic image delivers many messages about the act and meaning of footbinding in China. This one image embodies the traditional importance and obsession with ‘golden lotuses’ as an extreme form of beauty and sensuality, and simultaneously offers a visual representation and therefore a more realistic understanding of footbinding from a less biased Chinese cultural perspective.
focus on one idea in one paragraph and start the paragraph with a topic sentence