Perhaps no other shoe in history has provided so much cultural fascination and ethical revulsion than the traditional Chinese practice of foot binding. Undertaken by (or enacted upon) young girls between the ages of 5 and 7, the binding process entails the breaking of the bones in the foot, and subsequent warping and (sometime) mutilation of the foot in order for it to remain a tiny size, ideally no longer than three inches in length (known as a “golden lily” by practitioners).
Manchu women did not bind their feet so their footwear is distinct from the tiny shoes worn by Han women of the previous dynasty, the Ming. The high Manchu shoes were always lavishly decorated. Here, the head of the phoenix rises up in 3D, as if the bird is perching on the shoe's tip, 4 December 2010, Palace Museum, Beijing