Chinese Shoe Culture (I) Learning from Nature

Written by Gioia Zhang


It has been deduced that the earliest Chinese footwear was made of a hide called “foot-binding skin” or “hide socks”. Chinese ancestors learned not only to use animal skin to keep their feet warm, but also to use small leather straps and hairy hide to wrap their feet in for protection during their struggles against nature.

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After a long time, the hide socks shaped like “Baozi” (a type of steamed, filled bun or bread-like item in various Chinese cuisines), evolved into leather shoes shaped like “Shao Mai” (a type of traditional Chinese dumpling), and are still popular today.

1 乌拉鞋和乌拉草

In modern times, the wula shoes of Northern China also retain the shape of the original Chinese shoes.

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The present-day fish shoes of the Nanai people from Northern China are also inspired by the original Chinese shoes.

It was a great leap for the original hide shoes when they evolved into more complicated straw shows. China has at least seven thousand years of history using the leaves and stems of plants as raw materials to weave clothing and accessories.

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Straw sandals were popular in every region of ancient China. This is because it was extremely convenient to obtain the raw materials in order to make them, and they felt light and comfortable to wear.

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Children’s Reed Woven Sandals

1 麻线鞋.jpgLinen Shoes

Linen can be made into thread by weaving and by spinning. As social production systems advanced, people found that clothes could be made more delicate, softer, and more resilient with the use of wild linens. The Chinese made a variety of woven shoes and shoe accessories.

 1 东晋编织履.jpg Woven Shoes · The Eastern Jin Dynasty

1 东晋织成履.jpgWoven Shoes · The Eastern Jin Dynasty

1 蒲草鞋 唐.jpgBulrush Shoes· Tang Dynasty

In this chapter, from hide shoes and woven straw shoes, to textile shoes, we see how Chinese people have presented the world with their splendid shoe culture, using only materials from nature.


About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

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