Traditional Shoes of Chinese Ethnic Groups

Shoes are items worn for travel, and are indispensable in people’s daily life. Since ancient times, human beings started to use animal hide to cover their body and leaves to wrap their feet. The primitive form of shoes made of animal hides in China as long as 5,000 years ago, during the Yangshao Culture Period. Shoes were named as “Lu” in the Han Dynasty, and “Ju” in Qin Dynasty. In ancient China, shoes can be divided in to three categories according to their materials: cloth shoes, straw sandals and leather shoes. Cloth shoes are made of silk or linen; straw sandals are made from a plant called calamus, while leather shoes can be made of tanned animal hide or raw animal hide. The later one is also called “Geta”.

During the evolution of shoes, the esthetic value is more and more emphasized as equally important as the function. Shoes are crucial adornment that can add flavor to clothes. Depending on different geographic conditions, climate, ethnic culture, politics, economy and even people’s career, various kinds of shoes emerged in terms of style and form. Footwear culture developed for thousands years in China. Chinese ethnic groups have developed great variety of traditional shoes with intricate patterns and colorful decorations. Every pair of shoes is beautiful and attractive, demonstrating the talent of Chinese ethnic people and carrying sentimental values.

The double-nose cloth shoes with leather streaks of Man nationality, the leather boots of Mongolia nationality, the felt boots of Tibetan nationality, the sheep-pelt boots of Uygur nationality, the double-layer shoes of Tu nationality, the cloth rain-boots of Bai nationality, the Chaoxie of Dai nationality, the ingot-shaped shoes of Gelao nationality, the embroidery shoes, cotton shoes, sandals, and children shoes of Maonan nationality... There numerous kinds of shoes are telling the stories of people’s life in the past, at present and in the future.

According to the materials, shoes can be classified into leather shoes, cloth shoes, straw sandals, wooden shoes, bamboo shoes, and rubber shoes.

The traditional shoes of Chinese ethnic groups displayed here are collected from areas of Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Shanxi and Beijing. Most of them are made within the last 400 years, in the Qing Dynasty or in modern times.

Location: 1st floor, Bai Branch Museum, South Park

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