For a thousand years, Chinese mothers bound their daughters' feet, molding them into unnatural shapes and forcing the bones to break in pursuit of the ideal, three-inch "Golden Lotus."
The women then spent hours sewing exquisite, embroidered shoes to cover their crippled feet, creating an erotic mystique men found captivating.
Beverley Jackson's book, "Splendid Slippers," describes both the horrors and the strange beauty of footbinding. The author explores how the practice became so important to the Chinese culture and examines the roles it played in marriage, prostitution, the theater, the arts and in literature. Finally, she explains how and why footbinding gradually fell from favor.
Jackson's book, marvelously illustrated with photographs of "lotus shoes," serves as a wonderful introduction to the subject. The author makes a real effort to understand footbinding from the perspective of the Chinese. She does not flinch from the horrified reactions it inspired in Westerners, but she also probes the Chinese psyche to reveal how the practice became so essential and desirable.