The last bound-feet women of China - in photographs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2015, 6:42am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 March, 2015, 10:19am

The ancient tradition of foot binding now sounds like a barbaric practice. It involved breaking the bones of  young girls’ feet and wrapping them tightly to inhibit growth - and all so they could fit into shoes 10cm long. But it’s important to remember that many of these women did so willingly, as they wanted to appear attractive and to find a husband.

The women’s quiet pride in their tiny feet is apparent in the images taken by Hong Kong photographer Jo Farrell. Her eight-year project to document the last remaining women with bound feet has culminated in a book – Living History: Bound Feet Women of China – that was funded with the support of a Kickstarter campaign online and will be launched at the British Council in Hong Kong on Monday, March 23.

Almost all the 50 women Farrell photographed live in Shandong province, in central China, or Yunnan province in the country's southwest (the practice was less common in the north and south). Farrell’s book is a unique take on foot binding in that it doesn’t focus on the bizarre or the barbaric, but instead seeks to give dignity to these now elderly women who have lived hard lives. They toiled in the fields, survived the Cultural Revolution and many had nine or 10 children – all while hobbling around on their heels, their broken feet squashed into 10cm shoes. 

Living History: Bound Feet Women of China book launch and signing,  March 23, 6.30-8pm, British Council, 3/F, 3 Supreme Court Road, Admiralty. Book your place at