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Home > Travel News > 3 Pairs of Ancient Three-Cun Lily Shoes, Kept by a Doctor

3 Pairs of Ancient Three-Cun Lily Shoes, Kept by a Doctor


"A doctor keeps three pairs of ancient woman's three-cun lily shoes!" Being a China facts digger, I visited his home in Gongcheng and witnessed the unique traditional Chinese shoes on Monday.

The doctor goes by the name of Zande He, a 68 years old man, who retires from the People’s Hospital of Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County, Guilin. "These shoes were once kept by my grandfather," Doctor. He said, "He told me that his ancestors had come to Gongcheng from Jiangxi province as refugees in 200 years ago, these shoes are heritage from them."  "After his death," the doctor added "I keep the three pairs of shoes."  "In ancient times women's feet were bound," He said to me "After a girl was born 2 or 3 years, her parents would bind her feet with the cloth shreds tightly in case for growing, this is called foot-binding." "In the old days a woman with bound feet was considered as 'beauty' and her feet were known as 'three-cun lily feet'," "Most women's feet were about 3 cun (≈9.9 cm) when they grew up, those who have big feet may not find husbands, even discriminated by other people." "Binding was brutal," He said, "It made the girls wail out in pain," "It was, nevertheless, the parents had to bind their daughters though they considered this behavior against their conscience."

The three pairs of three-cun lily shoes kept by Doctor He belong to three sizes: small, medium and large. The small measures 4 cun (≈13.2 cm), the medium measures 5 cun (16.5 cm), the large measures 6 cun (19.8 cm), all the thickness of their soles are about 1 cm, the broadness of the heels are 4 cm, 5 cm and 6 cm from the small size to the large size respectively. Each shoe looks like a regular triangle, and the toecaps are cuspate. Both the soles and the vamps are made from home-made clothes. The vamps are black and both sides of them with delicate embroidery.

"In ancient times, the women wore three pairs of shoes at the same time," Doctor. He Said, "They wore the small size first, then the medium and then the large outside of the two," "But why they wore 3 pairs of shoes all together?" I asked. "Cause the smallest shoes may measure only 3 cun ( ≈ 9.9 cm)," "They would make their owners instable," "By putting on three together, the ground contact areas were enlarged and therefore the women were not liable to stumble or fall when they walking." He replied.

By L. T.

Three-cun Lily Shoes

Notes to Reading
*Cun: The cun is a traditional Chinese unit of length. Its traditional measure is the width of a person's thumb at the knuckle, whereas the width of the two forefingers denotes 1.5 cun and the width of all fingers side-by-side is three cuns. In this sense it continues to be used to chart acupuncture points on the human body in various uses of traditional Chinese medicine.1 cun ≈ 3.333 cm

*Three-cun lily feet: It refers to a woman’s feet is only 3 cun (≈9.9cm), which is called Sancun Jinlian (lit. three-cun golden lily) in Chinese. The origin of lily feet is not very certain in China. But a legend has it that it appeared during the Five Dynasties (907–960).

*For more info about the facts of Three-cun lily feet or Three-cun lily shoes you can visit the Footbinding Museum in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. Here is a tour package including the museum.

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