Chinese Shoe Culture(V)Colorful Tribal Shoes

Written by Gioia Zhang


The vast and fertile land of China gives birth to multi-ethnic cultures. Footwear also shows astonishing changes with civilizations from different geographical circumstances.

5满族黑贡呢云纹双梁花鞋.jpgManchu Black Tribute Flower Shoes with Double Beams · The Late Qing Dynasty and Early Period of the Republic of China

Manchu women wore flag shoes, and Manchu men wore boots. Most of the flag shoes were embedded with double beams, but some were sewed in cloud patterns with brocade, called “cloud shoes”. Manchu women’s shoes were divided into flat sole types and high sole types. Some of the high-sole shoes had the design of a “horse hoof”.

5藏族红黑毛呢绣花长靴.jpgTibetan Thigh Wool Boots with Red and Black Embroidery · Contemporary

There are many kinds of Tibetan boots, which can be roughly divided into 3 types: cow leather boots, corduroy boots, and woolen cotton boots. However, there is no difference between men and women’s boots. They were only different in height and thickness.

5侗族挽针绣翘头绣花鞋.jpgDong Tribe’s Warped Head Shoes with Double Chain Stitch Embroidery · Contemporary.

5侗族马尾绣翘头绣花鞋.jpgDong Tribe’s Warped Head Shoes with Horsetail Embroidery · Contemporary

The Dong tribe’s embroidered warped head shoes, also called “hook shoes,” had a pointed end like a ship’s bow or an ox’s horn, a symbol that payed respect to nature and animals. Many Chinese ethnic groups make symmetrical shoes. This simplifies the shoe-making process, and also reduces the difference in abrasion between the two sides caused by constant wearing.

5鄂温克族犴皮靴.jpgEwenki Tribe’s Dog Skin Boots · Contemporary

Before the late Qing dynasty, the Ewenki people made all their clothes from animal skin, as they lived in a cold region and made use of animal husbandry. Their hide boots were warm, portable, and resilient. Walking with Ewenkian hide boots in snow and in mountains made only tiny sounds, which was helpful for hunting.

5鄂温克族犴腿皮靴.jpgEwenki Tribe’s Dog Skin Boots · Contemporary

Ewenki people wear dog skin boots all year round. Generally the summer’s boots are hairless. In winter, people put wula grass, one of the three treasures of Dongbei province, in their shoes to keep their feet warm.

5青海互助土族绣花鞋.jpgEmbroidered Shoes of Tu Ethnic Group in Qinghai Province · Contemporary

5青海互助土族腰鞋.jpgThigh Boots of Tu Ethnic Group in Qinghai Province · Contemporary

Tu embroidery features delicate stitches, vibrant colors, compact woven structures, and is easy to preserve. Patterns on these shoes are mainly made by simple stiches using bright colors, and show the unique artistic attraction of the Tu people’s embroidery. Rainbow-patterned decoration is usually on Tu women’s clothing, and therefore the ethnic area in Qinghai province is known as the “rainbow town”.

5四川茂汶羌族花鞋.jpgEmbroidered Shoes and Hand-sewn Soles of Maowen Qiang Ethnic Group in Sichuan Province · Contemporary

The cloud shoes, often with embroidered soles, are homemade cotton shoes which the Qiang people wear on holidays. The shoes represent love in Qiang’s traditions.

5赫哲族鱼皮鞋.jpgFish Leather Shoes of the Hezhen Ethnic Group · Contemporary

The Hezhen ethnic group lives along the Songhua River, earning their livelihoods by fishing and hunting. Using fish skin to make clothing, including jackets, pants, bags, and shoes, is the Hezhen ethnic group’s distinct traditional skill.

5白族女花鞋.jpgEmbroidered Shoes of Bai Ethnic Group · Contemporary

Ladies from the Bai tribe also have handmade shoe traditions.

5保安族黑贡缎刺绣女夹袜.jpgBlack Sateen Embroidered Women’s Socks from Baoan Ethnic Group · Contemporary

The Baoan ethnic group’s traditional “shoe-socks,” also known as “worship shoes,” are usually taken off in mosques. Since the bottom of the socks are the hells are shown during worship service, the Baoan people sewed exquisite flower patterns to the bottom of the heel of the “shoe-socks.”

As we can see, there are countless achievements of Chinese handcrafted art.


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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