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Pair of shoes

Pair of shoes

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered silk, with cotton and wood

  • Museum number:

    FE.87:1, 2-2002

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

Pair of women's pale lilac silk shoes. They are made for bound feet. The shoes are embroidered with a stalk, flower and butterfly motif. They have blue-and-purple commercial ribbons attached to the cuffs and a silk vamp applique. The ornately decorated curved wooden soles are covered with cotton and have embroidered motifs on the heel.

Place of Origin

China (made)


19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered silk, with cotton and wood


Height: 10 cm, Length: 14 cm, Width: 6 cm

Object history note

According to Dorothy Ko, the Chinese used a variety of names to refer to shoes for bound feet - including arched shoes (gongxie), embroidered slippers (xiuxie), and gilded lilies (jinlian, which also refers to the bound feet in particular and to the customs associated with footbinding in general). In her book, she has adopted a modern English term, lotus shoes. Largely handmade at home (unless it requires metal, leather or wooden parts) the decorated motifs of these shoes often symbolised fertility, longevity, happiness, wealth and success. Shoes differed in types (indoor, outdoor, sleeping, or funerary), styles (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Sichuan, Shanxi, Shandong, Fujian, Guangdong, and Taiwan), materials (cotton, silk, felt, bamboo, wood, etc.), artisanship and structure that could affect the body and gait of the wearer. Apart from embodying the material and bodily experiences of the makers and wearers, they are important representations of feminine beauty, sensuality, cultural identity, social status and character of the female user. They were largely worn by women of the upper class elite up till the 17th-18th century until they became truly widespread from the 19th century onwards.

This pair's ornate curved wooden sole covered with fabric, toe area arched downward, and wide shaft are features that distinguished Shandong booties, while its fabric-covered sole indicates that the pair is intended to be worn indoors.

On display in the V&A exhibition, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain between 13 June 2015 – 31 January 2016.

Descriptive line

Pair of silk shoes for bound feet, China, 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ko, Dorothy. Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: The Bata Shoe Museum/University of California Press, 2001


Textiles; Footwear; Women's clothes; Embroidery


East Asia Collection

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