How ten centuries of Chinese women submitted to the painful practice—and how it finally went out of fashion.
For around ten centuries, successive generations of Chinese women endured a practice when, as children, their feet were systematically broken and shaped in such a way that they resembled hooves. The tradition, known as foot binding, eventually came to symbolize China's backwardness, a relic from the country's distant past.
But despite the efforts of reformists, foot binding persisted well into the 20th century. In the January 1923 issue of The Atlantic, Pearl Buck (whose book The Good Earth is one of the most influential ever written about China) described meeting a young woman who had recently decided to unbind her feet in accordance with the latest fashion:..