Daoist Shoes

Ritual Shoe ShapeI've been looking for information on Daoist ritual shoes. I was sure that somewhere I'd seen special Daoist ritual shoes which are 3 inch high stilts. These shoes make it impossible to put weight on the toes or the heel since the stilt post goes down from the center of the foot. Since the base the the stilt is thicker at the bottom, kind of like a mushroom, there is a plenty of space to balance. The problem is I have been unable to find these shoes (so no picture). Did I dream them? How embarrassing.

Shoe ProfileDream or not, these shoes represent ultimate shamanic power. The symbolic steps Daoists take in ritual cover huge distances. They circumambulate the empire, the world, and they traverse the distances between stars in the sky.

It gets confusing. Daoists are not shaman, but there is a part of Daoist ritual in which they take on the role or the position, or more accurately, the qi of all shaman. This is done by taking on the physicality of the Chinese prehistory shaman the Great Yu, and acting out key parts of his life. The difference between normative shamanic power and a Daoist embodying the Great Yu is the difference between power and potential power.

There is a direct parallel with taijiquan and other internal arts. First a taijiquan student develops the ability to clearly and unambiguously demonstrate and replicate peng jin , lu jin, an jin, and ji jin (ward-off, rollback, etc...). To get these types of power one must know exactly which part of the foot to use. Then he or she strings peng-ji-lu-an seamlessly together so that these types of power are part of a continuous circle. To achieve this one must be continuously shifting from the ball of the foot to the heel. Once this jin level is achieved the student then moves on to the shi level. Shi roughly means potential, it implies a strategic position, a drawn bow, and having ones hand on a lever.
The jin level is like shamanic power. The shi level leaves power unexpressed, unused.

Shaman get power through covenants with spirits, deities, or even natural forces. The physical "fear and trembling" necessary for summoning shamanic power requires engaging the "pushing and pulling muscles" of the legs which involves pressure in the balls of our feet or in our heels. With these Daoist ritual shoes on, our legs would easily stay in a weak potential state. At the shi level of taijiquan we do not push from the balls of the feet or the heels. Our power remains potential.

UPDATE 12/21/07: Here is a picture of the shoe, it's called a Manchu Shoe. I have now written more on this subject! Metropolitan Museum of Art