In nineteenth-century China, when wives and
daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion,
the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own
secret code for communication: nu shu ("women's writing").
Some girls were paired with laotongs, "old sames," in
emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They
painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on
handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of
their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and
With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has
composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their...
Beyond the Book
The practice of foot binding
began around 970 BC.
Bound feet were described as 'lily feet' because they were
considered so beautiful and were symbolic of gentility
The process began for a girl between 3 and 11 years. The
four small toes were broken and turned under and bound,
then the arches were broken so the foot could be pulled
straight with the leg. Overtime the feet would shrink so
they could fit in 'lotus shoes' 3 inches long. In the
1600s the Manchu Dynasty attempted to end foot...