Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

It Didn’t Start With Tanizaki

Posted in Books,Japanese literature by bourdaghs on the June 20th, 2010

Foot fetishism in Asian literature goes back long before the twentieth century. I’ve just come across the following poem in praise of women’s feet by great Tang dynasty bard Li Po 李白 (701-762). Shades of Naomi….

The Women of Yueh (1)

She is a southern girl of Chang-kan Town;
Her face is prettier than star or moon,
And white like frost her feet in sandals–
She does not wear the crow-head covers

(In these poems, Li Po records what he saw of the “southern” girls in Kiangsu and Chehkiang. These provinces were under the king of Yueh in the 5th and 6th centuries, B.C. Chang-kan is near the city of Nanking, and was at Li Po’s time inhabited by the lower class of people. The “crow-head covers” are a kind of shoes worn by upper-class women of the north. So named on account of their shape and very small size–small feet seem to have been already at a premium. “It is interesting,” remarks a native critic demurely, “to note Li Po’s admiration for a barefoot woman.”)

[Translation and notes by Shigeyoshi Obata, from his edited volume The Works of Li Po, The Chinese Poet (1935)]

(Image source)

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