The Eroticism of Footbinding



Source: Artstor, Erotica: “The ‘Golden Lotus’ held in the Palm of the Hand” 1736-96 (Ch’ien-lung Period),Painting–China: Qing–1644-1912 A.D, University of California, San Diego

The above image, titled “The Golden Lotus’ held in the Palm of the Hand” from the Ch’ien-lung Period depicts a man and women in period dress in a traditional Chinese garden. The man, down on one knee,  gently holds one of the women’s bound feet, which emerges only slightly from beneath her skirt,  in the palm of his hand. Her bound foot is at the center of the painting and the two are making eye contact. Their exchange of pleasant knowing looks are illustrated in their facial expressions.

make an argument right after description

This painting relates many of  the meanings and traditional reasons behind footbinding as described by Dorothy Ko in her article “The Body as Attire: The shifting Meanings of Footbinding in Seventeenth-Century China.” Bound feet was an expression of wen civility and were critical in the search for a suitor. The bound foot was erotic for men and, as Ko mentions, suitors desired a small bound foot over a pretty face. In the painting, the traditional garden background emphasis the element of civility in the bound foot. The man holds the much desired “golden lotus” and their facial expressions seem to indicate its eroticism. It’s placement at the center of the painting emphasizes its importance. The fact that the small bound foot protrudes only slightly from beneath the women’s skirt signifies the appeal found in its concealment rather than exposure.

analysis could be in more detail and deapth

– Marysol Newton

Bowdoin Class 2017