Dramatic video clip showing footbinding in ancient China – from “Snow Flower and The Secret Fan”

“Only through pain will you find beauty,” says Snow Flower’s mother as she makes her daughter walk with her feet bound.

In my research for Bound Feet Blues, I’ve been looking into what it was like for young girls to have their feet bound. I came across the movie Snow Flower and The Secret Fan – see my blog post from earlier this week “Beaches” with Bound Feet – footbinding and female friendship – which is all about footbinding.

Here is a clip showing the sequence where one of the girls has to endure footbinding:

It is painful to watch and is  a moving dramatisation of what it must have been like for little girls who had to endure this brutal process.

The one comment I would have, however, is that from my research, footbinding is a process and not just a one-off as the film suggests.

As a girl grow up, her feet keep growing so the whole process has to be repeated again and again and can take up to ten years – until the girl’s feet stop growing… So it was actually much more horrific than what the film portrays.

In the central footbinding scene in Bound Feet Blues, I try to show that long drawn out process and it’s psychological and emotional impact on a young girl – and also on her mother who is duty bound to do this to her beloved daughter. It has been incredibly draining emotionally to work on this scene in rehearsal, as you can imagine.



Yang-May Ooi is an award-winning TEDx speaker, bestselling author, story performer and coach. Her work uses the power of personal narrative to help creatives and others grow into confident, collaborative leaders. She is currently rehearsing a one woman story performance, Bound Feet Blues, which will be showcased in London’s West End in Oct 2014.

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