What Are Traditional Chinese Shoes?

Did you know that the word for shoes in Chinese is similar to the word for Bad luck, but that did not stop the Chinese from making comfortable cloth shoes? So, for as much as you will stand on your shoes and wear them out if you are wearing the cloth shoes, you can expect them to last longer. They will be comfortable for your skin because they are made of soft material and will wick away sweat better when compared to leather and synthetic shoes.

The Traditional Chinese Style Shoes

According to the Chinese culture, the different types or styles of shoes were worn with regard to the occasion. And some of the shoes were used to denote the social rank of the individual that was wearing them. For example “Ji” was worn when a person was attending an informal occasion, whereas Lü was worn when an individual was attending a formal occasion.

Traditional Chinese shoes can be classified into three, and that is in the form of raw materials used in their making. We, therefore, have cloth, grass, and leather shoes.

Traditional Chinese Shoes Female

  • The Buxie cloth shoes- the Buxie cloth Chinese shoes go back 3,000 years and were at times referred to as flats. The cloth shoe soles were made of clothes about 32 layers of cloth and were, even, named the one-thousand layered shoe. The shoe had several impressive characteristics given that it was made of cloth. For one they were water and warp proof, they were also elastic and were made with 100 stitches per square inch and that is if the sole required.

Once stitched, the sole would then be soaked in water in temperatures ranging between 80 and 100 degrees centigrade. It would then be hammered, shaped and finally put to dry.

  • The Xiuhua shoes– also known as the embroidered shoes, were characteristic of oriental aesthetics. The shoe was very attractive and had beautiful patterns on the cover, toe, heel throat, and shoe cushion. The patterns that were embroidered on the shoe were those of animals, birds, sceneries, traditional Chinese dramas, and flowers. Some of the shoes also featured auspicious patterns, like the pomegranate, the lotus seed, a dancing phoenix, or a flying dragon.
  • Manchu Horse Hoof Shoe- the Machu Horse Hoof shoe emanate from Qing Dynasty. The shoe was designed with two parts, the upper part that was made of fabric and the lower part that was made of a wooden heel. The bottom was made of Hemp-covered wood and which supported a decorative embroidered upper. The Manchu Horse Hoof shoe was made of two different materials, the heel had a slightly curved horse-hoof shape, while the sole was padded with layers of cotton, which would mean that the shoes were best worn indoors or on special occasions.
  • A fun fact about the Manchu Horse Hoof Shoe is that the toes were slightly pointed and that the right and left shoes were interchangeable. The women made the embroidered uppers of the shoe, whereas the other decorated parts were done by professional cobblers.
  • The Lotus Shoes– the Lotus Shoes were designed to be worn by a Chinese woman with bound feet. The sole of the shoe was made of layers of cotton, which had been pasted on a wooden board, and which was later wrapped in cloth and stitched on to achieve a quilted finish. The upper part of the shoe was made of an embroidered silk material and was then attached to cotton strips.  
  • Prior to sewing to the sole, it was molded with a carved wooden foot or stuffed with either cotton or grain. As girls became older they were taught how to make their own shoes, and were required to make up to 16 pairs and would then use four for each season.
The Lotus Shoes

The Flower Pot Sole Shoes

Women from the Manchu ethnic group loved fashion and would look lovely in long dresses but which were also difficult to walk in as they were long and would restrict comfortable movement of the legs. Because of the above, they invested in a thick sole that looked like flower pots, thus the name flower pot sole shoes. According to ancient Chinese literature, the shoes made a rhythmic sound that would conveniently scare away bad animals.

The Manchu women also loved these shoes because they supposedly made them look slimmer and coquettish.  

Traditional Chinese Shoes- Men

Straw Shoes

In traditional China, the men wore boots, the high-ranking officials wore square-toed boots, whereas the commoners wore pointed-toed boots. The boots were made of different materials, including woven silk, satin, leather, and cloth.

  • The Handicraft Boots – the Hu ethnic group were the first people to introduce handicraft boots to the state of Zhao. The king of Zhao then introduced the shoes to his country so that they could be used by the army in battle thus enabling them to move quickly. The King of Zhao also introduced Hu’s ethnic group clothes and which enabled his men to move faster in battle, and which led them to be ranked among the seven strongest states.
  • Straw Shoes- the straw shoes made in ancient China were worn by men of all cadre. For example in the Shandong province, farmers wore straw nests, which were a type of boots woven tightly with the stems and leaves of cattail or the corn leaves. The above materials were used because they kept the feet warm. The straw boots were, then attached to wooden soles which resulted in a combination of wooden sandals and straw shoes.

Kung Fu Shoe

The Kung Fu shoes have two aka’s, they can be referred to as the martial arts slippers or the Tai Chi shoes. It is a slip-on shoe made of cloth, and in ancient times it was worn when practicing Kung Fu among other martial arts or when performing Tai Chi. In ancient China, Kung Fu shoes were used by low-ranking troops. Currently, Kung Fu shoes are produced in variations and are used for general purpose wear.  

Chinese Black Cloth Shoes

The Chinese Black Cloth cotton shoes were worn by the Chinese men, however, men of a higher social standing would wear the tough black leather shoes when attending a formal occasion. Notable is that shoes in the Chinese culture were worn with regards to a person’s status in society. The above then means that each of the various social classes had a different sense of fashion in ancient China.

Chinese Shoes from the 80’s

Straw Shoes

Ancient Chinese shoes were durably built with vine roots, grass and hemps, but this was during the Neolithic ages. If we therefore, trace down Chinese shoes down to the 80’s you will notice that they improved significantly. During the Han Dynasty, the toe cap of their shoes was bifurcate and the soles were made with Hemp fibers. The shoes were referred to as double-pointed shoes. Moving over to the Wein and Jin Dynasties, the shoes had double beasts kneaded at the front part of the toe caps, which resulted in an elegant style. And in the Nothern Qi Dynasty individuals from all social standing loved to wear clothes that had incorporated some wooden teeth.

During the Song Dynasty, the small-headed shoe were worn by the men, while the women wore rounded, flat, or pointed-headed shoes, and had embroidery of birds and flower motifs on them. The Ming Dynasty shoes were characteristic thick and solid and were made in various styles and used different kinds of materials. People from the North loved to wear the Diamond patterned shoes while others loved the brown linen shoes.

In the Qing Dynasty, the men wore pointed shoes made of Brocade and that was during the summer and autumn. During winter they wore shoes that had been made with silk fabrics. The Chinese shoes wore in the Qing Dynasty had different mono and twin beams, and the upper part of the shoe had been uniquely embroidered with tattooing or scepter-shaped mascot toe caps.

The women of the Qing dynasty wore shoes attached with a 1-5 inch wooden sole and had a broad upper part and a circular lower part better known as the hoof sole. The shoes were made of brocade and five colored embroideries, there were families that decorated the shoes with different kinds of jewelry to enhance their overall aesthetics.

Chinese Nomadic tribes were the first ones to wear boots which were made in different styles. The boots were mostly worn during the Tang Dynasty. Notable is that the boots were only worn by men and the women’s boots first appeared in the Song Dynasty. And during the Yuan Dynasty, the Chinese wore Korean boots. The Tang Dynasty is also famous for the Chinese foot binding which came in the form of the three-inch lotus shoes.

Most of the ancient Chinese shoes discussed above spilled over to the 80s and even in the 21st century. For example, the Chinese slippers, the Kung Fu cloth shoes, leather shoes, and the boots crossed over to the 80’s and are also worn in modern society.

Chinese Traditional Shoe History

Machu Horse Hoof shoe

The first shoes made by the Chinese were made from tanned animal hide, thus they made their socks and shoes from leather. Notable is that back in the day, socks and shoes did not have much difference so, the early man would, therefore, protect their feet using pieces of animal hide, and would wrap them on their feet and then secure them with the leather thongs.

In the East and South of China, individuals made shoes using straw with the bamboo needles and the flax threads. They therefore, used the different types of grass to make shoes, notable is that a large population of the Chinese wore straw shoes except for the nomadic tribes. The straw shoes were constructed differently whereby the individuals in the Frigid North wore the Thick Straw boots whereas those in the south wore the straw sandals.

Straw shoes were not worn with regards to social standing, instead t,hey were worn by everyone including the farmers. After the straw shoes, came the silk shoes, and during the Shang Dynasty, the Chinese had learned how to weave silk cloth and even colored it with mineral and plant dyes. And thanks to Sericulture the beautiful silk shoes quickly took over the straw shoes.

The 20th Century saw the unveiling of the high-heeled shoes, better known as the Manchu Women high heeled shoes, characteristic of a concave heel and a vamp made of silk with flower, birds, and fruits embroidery. And while the shoes could be walked on comfortably, they also enhanced the walking style of the wearer, who quickly assumed the swaying gait.

The Chinese are also known for making cotton shoes, and the vamp could be made from quilted cotton, silk, or velvet. This type of shoe could be worn on any type of foot and would offer a soft and cozy feeling.

How to make traditional Chinese Shoes

To make the Traditional Chinese straw shoes, you will first dip the straw in water to make it soft, and then weave it using the knot-making process with your fingers. You will also use your feet to hold the straw tightly and pull the straw to yourself and then put your two middle fingers in between the middle cord and then proceed to weave the straw over and around in the required size.

Qiancengdi

Are a type of Chinese cloth shoes, they are soft, comfortable, and light in weight, perfect for people who love wearing shoes but hate foot odor. The Qiancengdi are hand-made cloth shoes and can make for a perfect gift for your loved one.

Conclusion

Chinese Cloth shoes were first made by the Chinese during the Shang Dynasty and as the years advanced, they learned how to make shoes using colored silk clothes. Initially the Chinese made shoes using leather and which also doubled up as socks. The Chinese cloth shoes have found their way in modern society, and you can, therefore, find them in the form of Chinese slippers for the indoors and the Kung Fu shoes.

yelang

My name is Yelang, I love my country. I love Chinese history, Chinese culture and Chinese food, I want to share my story to friends all over the world. Truly, without any political bias, let you know my motherland. For this reason, I have traveled all over China's 20 + provinces and visited more than 100 + cities. At the same time, I read a lot of books and articles, and let you know through the website of sonofchina. At the same time, I hope to get to know friends all over the world and know different countries in the world through sonofchina.So, if you have any questions, please let me know.

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