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I’ve recently seen photos of Anne Hathaway, Lady Gaga, Zendaya, and other celebs that seem to be the shoe of the moment: super-tall platform heels. For the uninitiated, these are incredible heels with a wedge upper that raises the front, allowing them to be worn and even walked in.

The most popular platform pump of this fashion cycle is the Valentino Tan-Go, which retails for US$1,150 (S$1,650), excluding podiatrist fees. Another platform shoe, which I think is prettier and probably more comfortable on the feet, is on display at the recently opened Hong Kong Palace Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District.

This exquisite pair of shoes from the Guangxu period (1875-1908) is made of silk and cotton and decorated with colorful appliqués and beads.


Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) Manchu women’s shoes with a platform extending down the center of the sole. While platform shoes would twist the wearer’s feet into an unnatural arch, the feet of women who wore these Manchu platform shoes remained flat.

Given the height of the platforms, which range from a modest centimeter to 23 centimeters (3/4 ft), women carrying them must maintain balance and watch their gait. This is the appeal of these shoes, also known as “pot soles” and “horseshoe shoes” due to the shape of their wooden platform.

They force the porters to slow down and behave with dignity and grace. After their conquest of China in 1644, the original homeland of the Manchus, located in the far northeastern part of what is now China, absorbed Han culture in many ways, especially language and the literary arts.

When it comes to clothing, however, the opposite is true. Han Chinese were forced to wear the attire of their conquerors, and over time Manchu attire became part of Chinese cultural identity. The modern cheongsam is a Chinese-style garment with a stand-up collar and side slits, literally meaning “bannerman’s clothing,” and Bannerman () is another name for the Manchus. However, Manchu flowerpot bottoms and horseshoe shoes did not become popular among Han women for a simple but painful reason.

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