Pair of Lotus Shoes (China)

Pair of 19th century lotus shoes from China. Pair of 19th century lotus shoes from China. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. FE.400:1, 2-2007.

A pair of nineteenth century lotus shoes is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. They are made of silk, cotton and wood. The shoes show traces of wear, and were therefore probably used, rather than made for the tourist market. The shoes are 16 cm long, 5 cm wide and 8 cm high and were probably worn by a bride.

The embroidery of the shoes, according to curatorial information, is reminiscent of Manchu embroidery. Manchu women in China, it should be remembered, did not bind their feet, contrary to Han women. The shoes include uppers made of red silk satin (red is the colour of fertility, hence its probable use by a bride), embroidered in white and coloured floss silk with designs representing coins, peonies and butterfiles (all auspicious motifs). The shoes have a low heel and a blue cotton heel band. The shoes have a somewhat upturned nose rising from the flat sole.

According to the information provided by the Museum, this style of shoe belongs to the Southern Anhui tradition.

See also the TRC digital exhibition Chinese lotus shoes (TRC, Leiden 2018).


  • KO, Dorothy (2001). Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, The Bata Shoe Museum/University of California Press.
  • JACKSON, Beverly  (1997). Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition, Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
  • ROBERTS, Glenn and Valerie STEELE. 'The three-inch golden lotus: A collection of Chinese bound foot shoes,' Arts of Asia vol. 27, no.2, 69-85.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 10 July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 08:09