Foot-binding is the agonizing process of crushing the bones and flesh of the foot into the narrow, pointed shape of a crescent moon, the so-called "Golden Lotus". A long strip of cloth was wrapped over the four smaller toes, under the instep and around the heel. By tightening the cloth daily the heel became slender and the toes eventually broken under, flattened against the underside of the sole. Once the binding process had begun, regular rebinding became an integral part of personal hygiene for the rest of the girl's life. In the early stages the foot easily became swollen and filled with pus, and would frequently break open. Some women applied ointments or washed in scented water to prevent strong odor and infection. Even for women advanced in age the binding cloth is removed only for bathing and to rebind.
Once the heel has been forced forward and the arch broken, the foot must be immediately rebound; it otherwise begins to lose its shape, causing excrutiating pain that many women said equals that of the original binding. The desired result is a normal large toe and ball of the foot that slide into a tiny embroidered shoe with a wooden platform to raise and support the heel. Each step is stunted by the inability to roll forward onto the toes, and those with very small feet may appear to be walking on stilts.
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