Throughout many parts of Asia, Mandarin ducks are a symbol of marital harmony. Although a mated pair differs from each other in appearance, they form a perfect union. Chinese women with bound feet would sometimes allude to this when making shoes. When making a pair of “Mandarin duck” shoes, a woman would make each shoe in a similar shape but would embroider different designs and symbols on each shoe. This pair features different symbols, designs, and different fabrics on soles.

Mandarin duck gin lien
Ningbo, China, c. 1910
BSM P02.25

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Pair of red silk shoes with blue binding and white silk moon gate. Pointed toe, low heel, textile covered sole with visible stitching.

Throughout many parts of Asia, Mandarin ducks are a symbol of marital harmony. Although a mated pair differs from each other in appearance, they form a perfect union. Chinese women with bound feet would sometimes allude to this when making shoes. When making a pair of “Mandarin duck” shoes, a woman would make each shoe in a similar shape but would embroider different designs and symbols on each shoe. This pair features different symbols, designs, and different fabrics on soles.

Mandarin duck gin lien
Ningbo, China, c. 1910
BSM P02.25