Chapter 3

Understanding the World

In her book Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding, historian Dorothy Ko begins with the story of a most unusual donation. In 1999, the Heilongjiang Museum of Ethnography in Harbin, China, received eight pairs of tiny wooden shoe lasts from the Zhiqiang Shoe Factory. The forms, the smallest of which was just three inches in length, had been used by the factory’s aging craftsmen to fashion dainty lotus shoes, the delicate embroidered footwear worn by women who’d had their feet bound as girls. The company had been selling just a few hundred pairs of the tiny shoes per year, mainly to women in their eighties and nineties. With this donation, the company formally ceased all production of lotus ...

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