In the previous blog we discussed one particular measurement of “beauty” in men, and today, let us talk about beauty of a lady. In the oriental world, there has always been some rather tangible aspects against which a beautiful lady is measured. The looks of a lady is a consideration: the hair shall be abundant, the forehead shall be wide, the eyes shall be clear, the mouth shall be apricot-shaped… the face shall be flower-like, the graceful waist shall resemble the willow tree, the body fat shall be sufficient. These are well-written in the ancient texts, guiding the aesthetics for generations, but these only refer to the physical appearance of a lady so far.
Song Dynasty Painting
Ladies worked hard to preserve their beauty since the ancient time. There were quite some toxins involved to make their faces white, because being white has always been a standard girls of today still follow! The most lethal of them all would be lead, arsenic, and cinnabar.
A beautiful lady has to be educated, because the inner beauty and the external beauty support each other. Women have always been able to receive education, and in the early periods, they were always able to move about rather with ease. In the later dynasties however, the feudal society tightened its fists and squeezed away quite some rights of female – this aspect aside, in general, girls were able to receive education, and some were able to obtain official status in the governments. The four most elegant subjects are: music, chess, calligraphy and painting. These are the advanced skills to acquire in addition to knitting, and the ability to read. The skills of music, chess, calligraphy and painting are considered graceful abilities, these are also places where emotions could be expressed freely.
Qing Dynasty Painting
This painting shows a lady playing a musical instrument called Guqin. It is a plucked instrument of seven strings, both ladies and gentlemen in the older days would take pride in playing Guqin, which is considered an instrument of “great subtlety and refinement”, and it is not to be confused with a popular modern instrument called Guzheng. I personally believe that string instruments pair the best with the oriental art, Guqin from the eastern world, and cello from the western world.
Tang Dynasty Painting
Chess or game of go, both are called “Qi”, and they are both enjoyed by people in the older days, male and female. This nice pass time allows for the practice of strategy as well as socialisation.
Ming Dynasty Painting
Another elegant pass time of a lady would be practicing Chinese calligraphy. Slowly grind some ink on the ink plate, light a stick of incense, and then spend the entire afternoon perfecting the character that contain so much emotion in every single line, what a life!
Qing Dynasty Painting
Painting is a most elegant activity for a lady also. The poetry that lingers the mind needs materialisation, and the painting brushes would help to extract these lines of poetry and write them down on a piece of paper or silk. Yes, it is writing, these paintings are just like visual journals, they are written with our hearts.
Qing Dynasty Painting
The life of a beautiful lady is busy but at a leisurely pace. She takes great care of herself, her family, and her life. She notices the flowers blooming in her garden, she greets small animals that come her way. She is always patient and kind, she becomes a cup of tea that exudes long lasting fragrance.
A beautiful lady makes everything in her life beautiful. So what makes a beautiful lady? The looks will disappear one day, but the confidence, the experience, the most comforting quality shall always remain.
Enjoy such cultural discussions? Have comments? I look forward to hearing from you!
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