An elderly woman with bound feet on a city sidewalk in Xi’an, 1982. © Patti Isaacs
Just today a friend posted a short video about foot binding on Facebook. Living in interior, rural China in 1981-82, I often saw elderly women with bound feet; the practice continued longer in the country’s interior than in the big coastal cities of China’s south and east.
In an earlier post, I mentioned elderly women with bound feet who nonetheless made the arduous climb to the top of Mt. Huashan not far from Xi’an. It was a challenging climb for me with my youth and big feet. I was doubly impressed by the women, many in their 70s and 80s, who picked their way up 5000 vertical feet on lotus feet.
View the video here:
Scroll’s Facebook video of bound feet
A controversial new theory has arisen about Xi’an’s famous army of terracotta soldiers. I first saw them in 1981, only six years after they were discovered in a farmer’s field east of the city.
New research—and the results of a genetic study—hint that Western explorers may have reached China more than 1,500 years before Marco Polo. Some experts think ancient Greeks may have inspired and helped build China’s famous Terracotta Army.
The BBC reports that the new theory is based on evidence from excavations at the tomb of China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, as well as the results of a genetic study. Read the full article here:
Did those who made the terracotta soldiers learn from Greek sculptors?
A Cultural Revolution era poster
My photographer cousin, Steve Penland, alerted me to a New York Times book review of images taken by a Chinese newspaper photographer during the Cultural Revolution in the city of Harbin in the northeastern part of the country. Photographer Li Zhensheng knew he was witnessing history and had the courage and foresight to stash negatives under the floorboards in his house. Here’s a link to his publisher’s website.
The Cultural Revolution, characterized by violent swings in policy and violence against those perceived to be “counterrevolutionaries,” ended several years before Gauss and I went to China in 1981, but the damage it did—physical and psychological—remained. Fear of standing out from the crowd, and thus risking criticism or punishment, crippled policymakers and ordinary citizens. History’s impact shaped the choices our friends and colleagues made and directly affected the trajectory of their lives.