The Origins of Manchu Chopine
Manchu women have long had a reputation for being tall and slender. This may be because in former times they wore platform-soled shoes, tall hair styles and close-fitting cheongsams. There is a legend behind the height-enhancing shoes associated with Manchu women.
A queen named Duoluo Ganzhu is credited with inventing the forerunner to the distinctive chopine style of shoe. Her father was chief of a tribe that lived in Akedun city in the Mudanjiang River valley. At age 18, Duoluo Ganzhu was a beautiful, resourceful young woman who was of great help to her father in ruling over their people.
Another tribe lived on the opposite bank of the Mudanjiang River in Gudun city. Its chief was Hasiguhan, who was known to be evil, sly and lecherous. He desired Duoluo Ganzhu as his bride, and made several official proposals, all of which she refused. Infuriated at her rejection of him, Hasiguhan swore vengeance.
Duoluo Ganzhu and 2,000 soldiers and citizens of Akedun fled to the safety of an obscure village. After staying there for a month while Hasiguhan and his forces occupied Akedun, however, food supplies dwindled and many sickened and died. Duoluo Ganzhu needed to find a way of reclaiming Akedun city.
As she walked through a meadow one day, despairing at the sight of legions of enemy soldiers on the only road to Akedun, a flock of white cranes caught her eye. As she watched them a plan began formulating in her mind. She called her people together, telling them "The white cranes' long legs and webbed feet allow them to stand in mud without sinking. We could make our way on stilts to attack the enemy." Duoluo Ganzhu's plan appealed to the people, and they immediately began cutting down branches. Before long, everyone had a pair of crane-like wooden stilts. Duoluo Ganzhu and her troops, stilted and camouflaged in grass, walked through the mud to Akedun city and attacked. Hasiguhan was asleep. Neither he nor his troops dreamt that the enemy would be able to advance through the swampy meadow and storm the heavily guarded city. Lust for revenge gave Duoluo Ganzhu's forces the strength to defeat the enemy. Archers shot Hasiguhan to death as he tried to flee across the Mudanjiang River. Recapturing Akedun took Duoluo Ganzhu and her troops just a few hours.
To commemorate this victory, Duoluo Ganzhu encouraged her women subjects to wear the elevated shoes that helped achieve it. As they were worn from generation to generation they gradually evolved into the distinctively stylish Manchu chopines.