Books: A Peculiar Passion

CHINESE FOOTBINDING by Howard S. Levy. 352 pages. Rawls. $10.

A forest maiden of Indian legend had tiny faun feet that left footprints in the form of lotus blossoms. A 10th century emperor of China, delighted by the tale, commanded one of his concubines to bind her feet in a faunlike configuration and dance among the petals of a giant golden lotus. The emperor's concubine, if Chinese tradition is correct, was the Judas deer who led millions of Chinese women down a thousand-year trail of torture. The cruel custom of footbinding spread rapidly from court to commons, and continued unabated until...