I’m actually talking about one specific pair of shoes here. I thought about it and thought about it…and decided to cheat history.
In The Dragon’s Child, there’s one problem with the shoes. I carefully never mentioned Old Bao-yu’s shoes. Bao-yu was an Imperial Princess….which would make her a Han, right? And therefore her shoes would have been…?
Well, with a story set in 1200, it’s a safe bet that a Han princess would have bound feet. This would cripple the old woman, making her barely able to shuffle around the wizard’s retreat, much less clamber down a mountainside with her grandchildren.
I couldn’t do it to her, so I decided to try to come up with a logic as to why she wouldn’t have had her feet bound. The idea that I came up with was to have the Manchus become influential in the capital far earlier than actually happened. The Manchus did not practice foot binding (although they -did- wear some interesting platform shoes.)
Since I was already getting rid of the Mongols and Tatars (I had dragons do that), why not make the Manchus more influential? After all, the Manchus could expand into space abandoned by the Mongols. But the main reason I increased the power of Manchuria was that I wanted not to include foot binding in the story. Self-serving, huh?
As it turned out, I managed to write old Bao-yu without ever having her do anything that would be impossible for a woman with bound feet, and therefore no one can actually point to it and comment on how historically inacurate I am…but I also never specifically said she had bound feet. Because in my mind, she doesn’t.
BTW, using the Manchus in this way set up another potential problem….because if the Manchus could influence foot binding in my world, then they would also be influencing fashion, probably bringing in that hideous hairstyle for men that came in during the Qing Dynasty (think Chow Yun-Fat in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). Under the Qing Dynasty (which was Manchurian) that hairstyle was mandatory. Ugh.
So I just didn’t talk about the mens’ hair much. I picture the guys with short hair…even though I don’t say it.