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Chinese Slippers

Chinese Slippers

Presented to the Guille-Allès Museum by a Mr John Fallaize, these beautifully embroidered slippers are listed in the Museum’s original records as being Japanese, but the style – particularly the platform sole – is distinctive of Chinese Manchu (Manchurian) design, so this appears to be a misidentification.

Thick, raised soles of this nature allowed the wearer to walk on unsurfaced roadways when the rains had turned the earth to mud. The extra 1 – 1 ½ inches in height made a significant difference.

However, the open-backed, slip-on design is confusing, as this is not typical of Chinese Manchu shoes of the 19th Century or earlier, which instead had closed backs. One explanation is that these slippers may have been made specifically for export to the West. There was a huge market for Chinese goods in Europe and North America as trade developed during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Centuries, and goods were often mass-produced and tailored specifically to the tastes of Western buyers. These slippers may be an example of Chinese producers sensing an opportunity and adapting a distinctly Chinese style to the Western market.