The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Bound foot, foot model, lotus shoe

About This Item


Bound foot, foot model, lotus shoe


Body Modification, Non-Therapeutic
Wounds and Injuries


The practice of breaking and then binding females’ feet began in 10th-century China. It was meant to communicate wealth, status, and beauty. Though it was officially banned in 1911, foot binding persisted to some degree though the 1940s. It was a crippling and painful custom.

J. G. Kerr, MD (1824-1901), an American physician who practiced for many years at the Medical Missionary Society Hospital in Canton (now Guangzhou), China, gave this foot to the Mütter Museum. Our original label for the foot reads “The os calcis [heel bone] and metacarpal bones are approximated, converting the arch of the foot into an acute angle. The os calcis is brought into line with the tibia. These results are produced by use of the bandage alone, consistently from about the child's 6th year. This specimen was brought to Dr. Kerr by a patient in the Medical Missionary Society's Hospital in 1874; the feet had mortified from cold, separating spontaneously. The patient had preserved them in lime, and wished to have them put on again; and when she found it could not be done she was persuaded to give them to Dr. Kerr. The other foot was given to an officer of the H.M.S. Challenger, and was taken to England.”

Accession numbers:

F1993.903 (shoe)
8429 (dried foot)
8433 (model)


Digitized by the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia




J. G. Kerr, MD, Donor






19th Century

Original Format

Lotus shoe: most likely silk; Foot: desiccated human foot; Model: plaster, paint


“Bound foot, foot model, lotus shoe,” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library, accessed January 18, 2022,