Not a tradition throughout China in all times and places, as many think, but still very prevalent in China up to the end of the Qing dynasty. The process involved taking a little girl's foot and bending it under. Crunch. Can you hear the bones cracking? Because if that happend, it was okay. Then they would be bound in silk wrappings. They would have to be changed frequently for at least the first few years, as they would be soaked with blood and pus. For some women, they never stopped bleeding--for all women, they never stopped hurting. Sexy, eh? A woman was completely unable to walk bare-footed. In her specially made shoes, she could hobble very slowly. If she tripped or lost a shoe, she would have to crawl. Some women's feet were as small as two or three inches. They were prized as the most beautiful and desirable wives and concubines. The custom started in the upper classes, but spread to the lower classes because they wished to advance their daughter's fortune--and later, because she would be unmarriageable if her feet were not bound.

Footbinding continued into the twentieth century in some areas. My gorge rises just writing this up.