Written by Gioia Zhang
Upturned toecap shoes are the most typical kind of ancient Chinese shoe. Yet if we look at the global history of shoes, we find that an upturned toecap is a common feature of ancient shoes from many different cultures. Shoes with upturned toecaps began in the Qin Dynasty. During the Spring and Autumn Period, these shoes were highly valued by people. In the Tang dynasty, people made many colorful upturned toecap shoes.
Red Shoes · The Shang Dynasty
Flower Brocade Shoes · The Tang Dynasty
Upturned Blue Silk Shoes
Upturned Damask Shoes
Upturned Toecap Style in the Tang Dynasty
Pointed shoes and “three-inch lotus” shoes originated in the Five Dynasties period and developed into “tip of the small feet” shoes in the Song dynasty.
Upturned Pointed Shoes · The Ming Dynasty
After the Qing dynasty, women generally wore shoes with thick soles, which were called “lotus” shoes and round head shoes. Except for boots, Men wore similar styles of shoes to what people wear today. A new trend of “flat shoes” was formed in the Qing dynasty. However, ethnic groups in southwest and northwest China still make and wear beautiful upturned toecap shoes.
Upturned Embroidered Shoes · The Yi Ethic Group in China
Zi Zhong shoes, a pair of knee high boat boots from a Tibetan monk in old days
Why were ancient shoes upturned? There are 4 reasons:
- Ancient Chinese wore long coats and long dresses. These upturned toecap shoes could provide some support for those long clothes to prevent people from slipping and falling.
- Upturned toecap shoes could better prevent people from accidentally hitting dangerous objects, and protect them from some acute injuries.
- The upturned part is made with soles that are resilient. This design could extend the useful life of the shoes.
- Upturned toecap shoes share the same features as the apexes of ancient buildings. It could be explained that this design was to show respect to gods and supernatural beings.
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