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She really loves those tiger feet

By Xinhua in Zhengzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-17 08:14

She really loves those tiger feet

Hu Shuqing displays two pairs of tiger-head shoes from her collection at her home in Zhengzhou, Henan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Collector hopes to preserve folk art footwear for next generation

For centuries, children in North China wore tiger-head shoes - so named because of the toe cap that resembles the head of a big cat.

That was until about 30 years ago, when the traditional footwear, much like the animal itself, began to go extinct.

Hu Shuqing, 51, from Central China's Henan province, has spent 17 years collecting more than 10,000 pairs of the shoes.

"I will give most of them to public museums, so that the next generation and the one after can see them," she said.

Chinese people began making tiger-head shoes in ancient times, believing images of the animals, which were thought of as the king of beasts, could protect their children from evil.

An old folk tale tells of a wicked official who abducted the beautiful wife of a boatman. Missing his mother badly, her son went to see the official in a pair of tiger-head shoes. The official refused to let the woman go and the shoes suddenly turned into two tigers that killed him, so the family could be reunited.

Tiger-head shoes have many variants. Some people swap the tiger head for frogs or peacocks, while more eccentric designs include spiders, snakes and scorpions.

Hu was born into a family of paper cutters and both her mother and grandmother could also make tiger-head shoes. "My daughter grew up wearing the shoes her grandma made," she said.

But her passion for collecting the shoes did not begin until 2000, when she spotted a pair at a Spring Festival temple fair.

"The tigers on the shoes were embroidered according to paper-cutting patterns," she said.

From that day forth, she has collected the shoes, first in her home county of Qixian, then farther afield in other provinces such as Hebei and Shandong.

Hu often goes collecting between September and December. "Kids wear tiger-head shoes in winter," she said. "They are pretty and warm."

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