Shoes, crazy shoes

I must admit that I am not that passionate about shoes, but I cannot resist sharing some of the fascinating or insane shoes stories. Speaking of the shoe culture in the world, one may think of those stilt-like high heels. One kind of the entertainment news that everyone hears about but refuse to admit would be those celebrities tripping on stage. Records generally attributed the invention of the high heels to le roi soleil – Louis XIV (1638-1815), however there are in fact some earlier records in the eastern world that worth some digging too about high heels!

Han Dynasty (202BC-220BC) Clog

In the archaeological findings China discovered that wooden clogs have been used since very early periods, normally to be used to walk in the muddy fields, and this tradition started some 3000 years ago. In the ancient poetry during the Spring and Autumn period (770BC-221BC) there were also mentions of beautify ladies dancing in clogs, and how the sound resonates in the halls. So it is both men and women who wore these clogs.

In the Han Dynasty, wooden clogs were also an essential object to accompany girls when they get married. A famous poet, Buddhist, and explorer, Xie Lingyun (358-433) was acknowledged to have invented the wooden clogs with removable teeth. His invention was rather interesting, because it allows one to remove one of the two teeth of the clogs to assist maintaining balance either when climbing up the mountain or descending from it.

What followed was the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and the wooden clogs started to look like the modern Japanese kinds. This was also the period where the two countries were extremely active in cultural exchange. In the more recent history, wooden clogs were used often in tropical regions to protect the splashing of mud onto the pants, and to prevent “Hong Kong feet”. Have you heard of this term? In Chinese it refers to the smell arising from the shoes after walking a full day in them – I think you get the gist. But the wooden clogs are one of the many “high heels” that ever existed in the oriental world, there are many more, and some rather strange and even disturbing.

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Shoes

The Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty gave birth to some disturbing traditions, including foot-binding. A decent lady must have super tiny (around 10cm / 4”) and arching feet, so young girls sustained great pain to fold their toes down under their feet, until they were useless. These feet were called the golden lotus, and the women walking with such feet could never be fast.

Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) Shoes

This picture shows a pair of the typical Qing Dynasty Manchu aristocrat shoes. Luckily ladies no longer needed to suffer from the foot-binding pains, but I suspect walking on these may invoke other pains if not careful. The heels of these can range from 5-10cm / 2”-4” to as high as 25cm / 10”! Probably no high heels of modern world could match those! If you have watched some Qing Dynasty TV shows, you most likely have seen these.

One of the possible reason for the invention of such crazy high heels was to hide the large feet ladies have under the bottom of their skirts. Another says that the Manchu ladies invented these shoes to protect their feet from bug bites in the mountains when picking mushrooms or fruits.

Either way, the relentless struggle seems to continue between us and our feet. Who knows, perhaps when the lady feet are no long the popular torture subjects, the high heels for men would regain popularity. However, I do feel very lucky to have been born in our modern world!

Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!

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