The appearance of the bound foot was of utmost importance. Chinese men and women pursued the ideal known as san zun jin lian – the three inch golden lily, or golden lotus.
The ideal length for a bound foot was three inches or less. Only a foot of this size was dubbed “the golden lily”. A foot of four inches was insulted with the term “silver lily” and longer feet would be given the ultimate insult – “the iron lily”.
The length was not the only important factor in assessing a bound foot. Shape was also a great factor. The perfectly bound foot must be shaped like the bud of a lotus flower. The ideal foot would be full and round in the heel. The toes would come to a thin point. The cleft between the ball of the foot and the heel was ideally two to three inches deep. The test the foot binders performed to insure a proper shape was to put a Chinese silver dollar into the cleft. If the coin fit tightly, this phase of binding was considered a success. The perfectly bound foot also must appear to be an extension of the leg.