Anything up your sleeve?

Have you been in a situation where you are about to leave the house, you already put on the outfit, selected the right shoes, and you know exactly which purse to take, but you do not feel like taking it? It happens to me constantly! When this happens in the winter I find it easier, because many of my jackets have lots of pockets that allows me to put in my phone and keys, but if it happens in the summer, I would have no choice but bring a bag. I have seen many girls going shopping with their boyfriends, and it is their boyfriends who end up carrying their pretty purses… In the ancient oriental world, such problems do not have to exist, it is because the people wear outfits that have great capacity for carrying things, and such “pockets” are not even visible from the outside. Now how do you think they manage to hide all their belongings?

Solution: sleeves!

Sleeves are the best place where anything can be held without attracting any attention, and this location would not interfere with the integrity of the outfit. An even better result is that hiding anything in sleeves make it so much harder for thieves to pick pockets.

Other than sleeves, the belts can also fold in some tiny objects, or if this person is wealthy enough, servants will be following around, and they can carry as many things as possible.

Now that you know that the sleeves hide a small world, are you wondering about the technicality of it too, such as how to keep things from falling? You are asking the right questions, the design is rather practical, and the pockets’ openings are in the opposite directly from the opening of the sleeves! I also suspect by keeping stuff in the sleeves, the sleeves can look nicer too, with the weight added. Keep in mind though in the various Dynasties these sleeve styles look different, also between male and female they also have differences in style. However, in general, whenever possible, it is in the sleeves that all the treasures hide. What about these treasures, what do people normally carry around?

Solution: money, letters, handkerchief, and sometimes a few small sticks

The most common things found in a sleeve would be money, which is why we even have a slang describing the governmental officials who are clean with integrity to have “breezes in their sleeves”, clearly, no money found there! Letters and handkerchiefs are common, they are also useful daily things. What about these small sticks?

Solution: early calculator!

Believe it or not, these rather unremarkable sticks served as the early version of calculators. They can be made of wood, bamboo, ivory or jade for fancier people. We no longer know the exact time of their invention, but in the Spring and Autumn period (770BC-476BC) they were already well in use. Do you know how they work? It is certainly not “1 stick = 1 –> 1000 sticks = 1000”, what math would that be! Give us Asians some credit 😉

Solution: see the chart on the left!

Their use is something that follows either the top or the bottom line, so there are two ways to use them, and to make calculation it is rather simple. I will not go into how to use them to do addition, subtraction or multiply here, but enjoy the exploration!

Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!



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