Asian-American Studies I Needed Complete. This Description Essay

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Asian-American Studies I needed complete. This description project: Historical Connections Project

Chinese ideals of beauty seem so different from Western ones. When one looks to Chinese practices such as foot binding, it almost seems that some of these practices are barbaric. However, and this is what this paper proposes to argue, Chinese and Western aesthetics have a lot more in common than an outsider would initially believe. Suffering is also a norm in Western aesthetics, whether it means wearing high heels or choosing a smaller number for one's clothes.

This paper will first look into the Chinese practice of foot binding, including particularities such as how this practice originated and what its importance was in Chinese society throughout centuries. The paper will subsequently link foot binding to current Western practices, drawing conclusions on whether there can actually be a common denominator between these aesthetics norms.

The practice of foot binding is traced back to the 10th century, during the Five Dynasties and Ten States period (Schiavenza, 2013). Foot binding is also known as lotus feet and perhaps this is tied to the legend of how foot binding appeared. One of the Chinese emperors of the period had a favorite concubine, who danced on a stage shaped as a lotus flower. She started binding her feet before the performance.

As always, fashion starts through imitation: other concubines and female members of the court started copying her foot binding ways, especially since she was a favorite concubine and, as such, the attention of the court. As a side consequence, all women started to strive for "three-inch golden lotuses" (Brady, 2013).

It is worth making a small parallel about how similar things are between the West in the 21st century and China in the 10th century when it comes to fashion and its incipient phases. In both cases, a well-known celebrity starts doing something outrageous and everybody else is in a hurry to copy whatever that celebrity did. If Lady Gaga restarted foot binding as a practice, would we all follow along?

The practice became more and more common during the Song Dynasty. As today, fashion and social status were closely associated. Foot binding, although generally embraced throughout all social classes, was much more common for the upper classes. The reason for this has a lucrative explanation: lower class women needed to actually use their feet, working in the fields and in their household.

Upper class women did not work, so foot binding became an element of differentiation, by a reverse logical mechanism, because if one could practice foot binding, then that person could afford not to work and could employ people to take care of her household. She was thus an upper class member and her family had significant revenues.

Fashion is a differentiator today as well, even though perhaps not to the same degree. The first thing that comes to mind is the Louboutin shoes. The Louboutin shoes are about their red sole and also about the price. Somehow, the two of them come together: walking on the street, the red sole shows that the woman is a successful one, who was able to afford a pair of Louboutin shoes.

The foot binding tradition became strongly linked with the Chinese socioeconomics. For example, it was not only a show of richness and social position, but also a way for a poor woman to marry into a superior class. The ideal length of the foot was labeled at 7 cm and this was referred to as the "Golden Lotus" (Manning, 2007).

Foot binding obviously also had an erotic component (in a very bizarre way). There were likely at least two elements to be discussed here: the way women walked and the fact that the foot was small. The latter has been discussed previously: a 7 cm foot was considered erotic. The movement was a different way of swaying, deriving primarily from the fact that women could not walk properly on their 7 cm feet, with most of their bones broken. The swaying and, probably, slight stooping, in an attempt to keep a balance, was supposed to be erotic.

Several interesting conclusions can be drawn here. First, fashion works in diverse and, quite often, irrational ways. Something like foot binding may not seem erotic in the West, may even seem strange, but in China, during a certain period of time, this was the mark of beauty and something quite erotic.

While this emphasizes the differences between the two cultures, it still does not deny the original thesis of this paper. Aesthetics in the West and in China remain similar through the way a group of individuals, early adopters, can influence the fashion tradition in a country. The way some trends started in the West are very similar. For example, blue jeans were originally limited to the working class, but they were adopted by the masses in the 20th century and are probably the most used piece of clothing in the West.

Another interesting thing resulting from the previous paragraphs is how fashion contributes to a "rags to riches" story. In China, foot binding can take someone from a lower class family and advance her into the upper classes just because her foot is small. In the West, a well-dressed girl, a fashionable individual, stands out in the crowd and draws attention to people. She can thus build bridges, create networks, be able to advance socially and improve her social condition.

It is also interesting, from this perspective, to note that one of the most popular stories in Western culture, "Cinderella," is also based on how fashion can improve your social standing and social position. Cinderella stands out in the crowd and the prince sees here because of the way she is dressed and the way she looks, before the prince can actually learn of all her qualities.

It is the shoe, eventually,…

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