Chinese Shoe Culture (II) Why Were Toes Upturned?

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.

 2 唐 赤舄.jpgRed Shoes · The Shang Dynasty

2 宝相花锦履 唐.jpgFlower Brocade Shoes · The Tang Dynasty

2 翘头兰绢鞋.pngUpturned Blue Silk Shoes

2 翘头绮鞋.pngUpturned Damask Shoes

2 唐代履头款式.jpgUpturned 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.

2 江西明墓出土的明代翘尖弓鞋(三寸金莲裹脚女性用鞋).jpgUpturned 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.

2 翘尖绣花布鞋 彝族传统布鞋,翘尖,绣彩色花纹,适宜在山区穿着行走.pngUpturned Embroidered Shoes · The Yi Ethic Group in China

 2 旧时西藏僧官所穿长筒船形靴。靴面为金丝花缎料,靴帮用多层白布纳制而成,厚实坚硬。靴尖呈船形,靴底为双层皮革,靴筒用紫红色氆氇制成。孜忠鞋.pngZi Zhong shoes, a pair of knee high boat boots from a Tibetan monk in old days

 2 Jin_Wu_Di.jpg

Why were ancient shoes upturned? There are 4 reasons:


  1. 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.
  2. Upturned toecap shoes could better prevent people from accidentally hitting dangerous objects, and protect them from some acute injuries.
  3. The upturned part is made with soles that are resilient. This design could extend the useful life of the shoes.
  4. 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.


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.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

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