One rainy day last week, we hopped a surprisingly quick bus to go to a nearby town to the West called Anren 安仁. The town — a sleepy Tang-era village filled with Qing-era mansions has become famous for its museum complex, as established by a rich real-estate magnate. After spending some time arguing at the ticket desk that yes, we are students and should get the student discount (the staff retorted that we’re too old), we visited 4 of the 20 halls: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Educated Youth (aka the Sent-down Youth), Furniture and the Three-inch Golden Lotus Pavilion (footbinding museum).
I love going to museums, and Eran (being kind) tolerates it for me. I find the whole experience pretty educational, really.
I saw pulse-taking pillows made of porcelain.
I learned that during the 1960s and 70s, more than 17 MILLION children (mostly high-school age) were sent from their homes into the countryside, to learn from poor farmers and exchange life experiences. I have long been intrigued by the barefoot doctors, many of whom were these Educated Youth.
The 3-inch Golden Lotus museum was designed like a garish boudoir in pink and red, with the shoes displayed inside furniture: shelves, tables, chairs. Foot-binding crippled Chinese women for about 1000 years. Bound-feet women wore shoes at night so that the bandages wouldn’t loosen too much. Do you know how big the ideal bound foot was? Look at the space between the 1st knuckles of your index finger and thumb, then double that length. That’s it. My rough translation of the foot-binding folk song is:
Press the oil,
Press the boards.
The sunshine warms up the hills.
Boil the water,
and add the salt.Mama wants me to bind [my] feet.