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Foot-binding was a traditional practice that originated among high society women in China, possibly up to 1000 years ago. It involved ‘moulding’ the feet of a young girl, usually aged between three and eleven. This artificially restricted foot growth and was achieved by breaking the bones of the feet and manipulating the toes under the arch. The feet were then bound and repeatedly squeezed in to tighter and smaller bindings and shoes over time. The painful practice was associated with beauty, status and marriage eligibility. It eventually spread through all social classes. Foot-binding was outlawed in 1912, but it continued in more rural areas for years afterwards. A Dr Rabe in Hong Kong made this plaster model of a left foot. It shows the damage caused by foot-binding. The model belonged to Scottish physician, medical administrator and surgeon Sir James Cantlie (1851-1926). It is shown with a right foot and a tiny pair of embroidered silk shoes (A51770).

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Glossary: model - representation

Use for a scaled representation of an object or structure, usually three-dimensional. The item is often idealised or modified to make it conceptually easier to understand.

Glossary: foot-binding

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