Shoes are a basic necessity in modern, daily life. Perhaps taken for granted, many of us think of shoes merely as a means of protecting the feet, keeping out the cold or as an aesthetics aid etc. However, shoes are more than that. They also carry with them five thousand years of unique folk customs and culture. In the first half of the year, the first museum in China dedicated to showcasing the traditional shoe culture of China will open in Tianjin – Huaxia Shoes Culture Museum (华夏鞋文化博物馆).
Situated in the Ancient Cultural Street of Tianjin (天津古文化街), the museum covers an area of 800 square metres and features a display chronicling the history of the shoes in China, shoe folk-custom, delicate boots and more. In total the museum will have six displays, 56 special themes and over one thousand different types of shoes. Visitors can expect to see anything from shoes worn by royalty, a stone shoe worn by Day Yu – an ancient Chinese hero who successfully controlled floods, Imperial Exam cheating shoes, lotus shoes for bound feet and more. The exhibition also includes shoes from every significant period in China’s history, such as the period in Spring and Autumn and Warring States, the Qin, Song and Han Dynasties and even shoes from the “new” China.
All in all, visitors will get an in-depth insight into the rich and varied shoe culture of China. A truly eye-opening experience, the museum will display all sorts of rare, unheard-of shoe types, covering materials as varied as leather, cloth and wood. Moreover, the folk-custom culture exhibit will feature over 500 photographs, pictures and objects. What the many items in the exhibition will ultimately hit home is how closely shoes were tied to birth and old age, sickness and death, weddings and funerals, ancestor worship and praying, leisure and play. Besides learning how shoes are made, if it is one thing that visitors will truly learn from this exhibition is that shoe culture is an inseparable link to the multi-ethnic customs and culture of China’s past.
The fact that China’s first shoe museum should settle in Tianjin is no coincidence either. Tianjin has been a major base for shoe production throughout the ages and has contributed enormously to China’s shoe manufacturing industry. The museum is expected to open to the public on May 18th, 2010.
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