A Glimpse of Traditional Chinese Shoes

August 11, 2008
Editor: zhuhong

1. This is a copy of ancient Chinese shoes. Tens of thousands of years ago, ancient people had learned to use fur and plants to protect their feet from getting hurt, in particular fur left over from hunting. They were used as socks and shoes because of their wearability and warmth. These were the first shoes by human beings. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

2. This picture shows a pair of ancient clogs. There are five holes in the board for wrapping cords. They were found in Zhejiang Province in 1989, in the Liangzhu Site from the New Stone Age. One clog had fallen apart and the other was whole when excavated. Through carbon dating, archaeologists determined that they had been made more than 5,000 years ago. Although this picture is just a copy, it still shows the design of the ancient clogs. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

3. This pair is a handicraft. The Panli decoration on the boots is a typical pattern from the Warring States (475 – 221 BC). This kind of shoe was introduced to the State of Zhao from the Hu ethnic group, which was the first great innovation in shoe culture in Chinese history. During the Warring States, the king of Zhao introduced the Hu ethnic group’s shoes and clothes into his country so that the army could move more quickly in battle. Therefore, the State of Zhao became one of the seven strongest states at that time. The appearance of boots radically changed military life, political life and even Chinese society. From then on, boots were martial shoes as well as everyday shoes which spread all over the country. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

4. Lily feet refer to women's bound feet. The origin of lily feet is not very certain. It is often said that it appeared during the Five Dynasties (907–960). According to legend, a king asked a lady-in-waiting named Ruiniang to bind her feet and dance on a golden lotus flower, so it was called three-cun lily feet. After that, the custom of foot-binding emerged. But this custom ceased after the founding of New China, and shoes for lily feet entered the museums. There is another story about lily feet. The king of the Sui Dynasty (581–618) was immoral. When he traveled along the river, he did not want to use men to tow his boat, so he chose 100 beautiful women. A blacksmith's daughter, Wu Yueniang, was one of them. She bound her feet and hid a small sword inside. She wore very beautiful small shoes with lotus flowers which attracted the king's attention. When the king came closer to look, Wu Yueniang drew out the sword and stabbed the king's arm. Wu Yueniang failed to kill the king; then she jumped into the river and killed herself. From then on, women began binding their feet to memorialize Wu Yueniang. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

5. The shoes of palace women during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) were red. Accompanied by beautiful figures and thick soles, they were very fancy and honorable.

6. Men's palace shoes during the Qing Dynasty were straightforward. They were slim but virile. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

7. Flowerpot-sole shoes in the Qing Dynasty. Women from the Manchu ethnic group liked to wear long dresses but found it inconvenient to walk. Thus, they added a special kind of thick sole under their shoes. The sole looked like flowerpots, so they were called flowerpot-sole shoes. According to legend, they made a rhythmic sound that would drive bad animals away. Another reason for wearing the flowerpot-sole shoes was that they supposedly made women slimmer and more coquettish. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

8. Wooden three-cun lily feet shoes. This is a pair of wooden three-cun lily feet shoes with red soles and yellow figures. They have two small logs on top and could either be enjoyed or used as little containers. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

9. Coppery three-cun lily feet shoes. Three-cun lily feet shoes made from white nickel are very cute and engraved with many beautiful figures. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

10. China shoes in the Qing Dynasty. This pair of shoes is a handicraft made from china clay. It has the design of clouds, meaning fortune. They used to be buried with the dead. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

11. Fat shoes from the Qing Dynasty. Civilians often used shoe-shaped tools to deal cards when gambling. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

12. Jade shoes. This pair of jade shoes is also a handicraft. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture museum)

13. White china shoes in the Qing Dynasty. This pair of china shoes is beautifully colored and exquisitely shaped. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

14. Embroidered shoes from the Republic of China (1912 – 1949). Women during the period did not bind their feet, so their shoes were larger. But the shoe making techniques were the same. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

15. There was a shoe shop named "Little Garden" in Shanghai at that time. It only made stitch soled shoes. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

16. China shoe-shaped teapot. This beautiful shoe-shaped teapot has a place to hold tea leaves, and the tea is poured out of the front. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

17. This pair of wedding socks is characteristic of southern Chinese. They wish happiness to the bride. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)

18. Straw sandals have existed from ancient times to today. There are many kinds of straw sandals. (Source: Chinese Shoe Culture Museum)


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