Foot binding (also known as "lotus feet") was the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century), then became popular during the Song dynasty and eventually spread to all social classes. Foot binding became popular as a means of displaying status (women from wealthy families, who did not need their feet to work, could afford to have them bound) and was correspondingly adopted as a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture. Its prevalence and practice however varied in different parts of the country.

Ancient manuals instructed men in how to sensually fondle bound feet in innumerable ways, and use them to enhance sexual encounters. The Chinese also believed women with bound feet developed extra strong vaginal muscles because of the mincing steps they took, thus making sexual intercourse more pleasurable.