Message in a Lotus Shoe

This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on May 7, 2007.
I am the father of two daughters. A few weeks ago, as a way of honoring my Chinese-born daughters’ cultural heritage, a woman in my congregation gave my family a shoe that originally belonged to a Chinese immigrant to California whose foot had been rendered impossibly small through binding.

For a thousand years, until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911, small feet were prized in China as a mark of great feminine beauty. In pursuit of this unnatural standard of beauty, parents would bind their daughters’ feet, eventually folding the balls of the feet so that they touched the heel. It was painful and crippling.

It’s hard to recognize beauty in something created to support such painful oppression, but the shoe is beautiful, and it came to us with an amazing story. Continue reading