[Hanfu · 漢服]Chinese Five Dynasties And Ten Kingdoms Period Traditional Clothing Hanfu Based On Paining <簪花仕女图/Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers>
The age of creation of <簪花仕女图/Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers> has been disputed among historical research scholars.
However, according to recent research and the excavation of more cultural relics from the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, it has gradually been proved that this painting is more in line with the hairstyle and the clothes worn by court women during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.
In particular, the towering hairstyle is very consistent with the description of noble women during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Similar female figurines were also unearthed from Tomb of the Empress of Min Kingdom (闽国) Liu Hua (Wang Yanjun’s wife) during the same period：
I am going to start describing time periods in Chinese history with European historical terms like medieval, Renaissance, early modern, Georgian and Victorian and so on, alongside the standard dynastic terms like Song, Ming and Qing I usually use. So like something about the Ming Dynasty I will tag Ming Dynasty and Renaissance. I already do it sometimes but not consistently. Here’s why.
A common criticism levied against this practice is that periodization is geographically specific and that it’s wrong and eurocentric to refer to, say, late Ming China as Renaissance China. It is a valid criticism, but in my experience the result of not using European periodization is that people default to ‘ancient’ when describing any period in Chinese history before the 20th century, which does conjure up specific images of European antiquity that do not align temporally with the Chinese period in question. I have talked about my issue with ‘ancient China’ before but I want to elaborate. People already consciously or subconsciously consider European periodizations of history to be universal, because of the legacy of colonialism and how eurocentric modern human culture generally is. By not using European historical terms for non-European places, people will simply think those places exist outside of history altogether, or at least exist within an early, primitive stage of European history. It’s a recipe for the denial of coevalness. I think there is a certain dangerous naivete among scholars who believe that if they refrain from using European periodization for non-European places, people will switch to the periodization appropriate for those places in question and challenge eurocentric history writing; in practice I’ve never seen it happen. The general public is not literate enough about history to do these conversions in situ. I have accumulated a fairly large pool of examples just from the number of people spamming ‘ancient China’ in my askbox despite repeatedly specifying the time periods I’m interested in (not antiquity!). If I say ‘Ming China’ instead of ‘Renaissance China’ people will take it as something on the same temporal plane as classical Greece instead of Tudor England. How many people would be surprised if I say that Emperor Qianlong of the Qing was a contemporary of George Washington and Frederick the Great? I’ve seen people talk about him as if he was some tribal leader in the time of Tacitus. European periodization is something I want to embrace ‘under erasure’ so to say, using something strategically for certain advantages while acknowledging its problems. Now there is a history of how the idea of ‘ancient China’ became so entrenched in popular media and I think it goes a bit deeper than just Orientalism, but that’s topic for another post. Right now I’m only concerned with my decision to add European periodization terms.
In order to compensate for the use of eurocentric periodization, I have carried out some experiments in the reverse direction in my daily life, by using Chinese reign years to describe European history. The responses are entertaining. I live in a Georgian tenement in the UK but I like to confuse friends and family by calling it a ‘Jiaqing era flat’. A friend of mine (Chinese) lives in an 1880s flat and she burst out in laughter when I called it ‘Guangxu era’, claiming that it sounded like something from court. But why is it funny? The temporal description is correct, the 1880s were indeed in the Guangxu era. And ‘Guangxu’ shouldn’t invoke royal imagery anymore than ‘Victorian’ (though said friend does indulge in more Qing court dramas than is probably healthy). It is because Chinese (and I’m sure many other non-white peoples) have been trained to believe that our histories are particular and distant, confined to a geographical location, and that they somehow cannot be mapped onto European history, which unfolded parallel to the history of the rest of the world, until we had been colonized. We have been taught that European history is history, but our history is ethnography.
It should also be noted that periodization for European history is not something essentialist and intrinsic either, period terms are created by historians and arbitrarily imposed onto the past to begin with. I was reading a book about medievalism studies and it talked about how the entire concept of the Middle Ages was manufactured in the Renaissance to create a temporal other for Europeans at the time to project undesired traits onto, to distance themselves from a supposedly ‘dark’ past. People living in the European Middle Ages likely did not think of themselves as living in a ‘middle’ age between something and something, so there is absolutely no natural basis for calling the period roughly between the 6th and 16th centuries ‘medieval’. Despite questionable origins, periodization of European history has become more or less standard in history writing throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, whereas around the same time colonial anthropological narratives framed non-European and non-white societies, including China, as existing outside of history altogether. Periodization of European history was geographically specific partially because it was conceived with Europe in mind and Europe only, since any other place may as well be in some primordial time.
Perhaps in the future there will develop global periodizations that consider how interconnected human history is. There probably are already attempts but they’re just not prominent enough to reach me yet. Until that point, I feel absolutely no moral baggage in describing, say, the Song Dynasty as ‘medieval’ because people in 12th century Europe did not think of themselves as ‘medieval’ either. I am the historian, I do whatever I want, basically.
hi! do you have any information on how hanfu were traditionally washed and stored? thank you :)
First, sorry that it has been so long. Then, sorry that it is a short answer. Hope it is alright.
Expensive clothes were not washed. In the old days they used a lot of plant dyes and those things discoloured when they came in contact with water. Modern plant dyes are slightly better due to the fixative used in dying but the colour still faded with every wash. Hence, people in the old days used to wear layers to avoid dirtied their fancy clothes with sweat.
Clothes can be scented with something called 熏笼/Xūnlóng (lit. "smoke cage").
It is usually made from bamboo, but rich people could have them made from porcelain, like this one from the Three Kingdoms period.
A book on incense from the Song dynasty, 洪氏香谱/Hóng shì xiāngpǔ (Hong's Book of Fragrance), recorded the method of scenting clothes: first placed a bowl of hot water to moisturize the clothes, then smoke the clothes with incense.
Sometimes clothes could be washed separately.
护领/Hùlǐng (lit. "Collar protector". They are usually white in colour) were often detachable so people only needed to wash that instead of the whole clothes. It could also be made from paper.
Those type of embroidered/painted collars from Song dynasty were attached separately, so it was possible that they were removed while the body of the clothes were washed separately.
People usually washed clothes in water with the aid of a 捣衣杵/dǎoyī chǔ or 洗衣杵/xǐyī chǔ 搓衣板/cuō yī bǎn wash stick and/or a washboard.
The earliest type of of soap recorded being used was 草木灰/cǎomù huī (wood ash). Other plant based soaps were also used, such as 皂荚/zàojiá (Gleditsia sinensis, black locust), 无患子/wúhuànzi (Sapindus saponaria, soapberries), 茶箍/chágū（the dregs from pressing oil from camellia seeds plus hay) etc.
There were also records of potassium soap. Those soaps however were usually in liquid form and often used in fabric manufacture [我国古代的洗涤剂].
猪胰子/Zhū yízi Pig pancreas was also used. 白国斌/Bái Guóbīn (in 2021) wrote how they made pig pancreas soap when he was young - pasted the pig pancreas, then dried and powdered it. Later mix with alkaline water and made into ball to air dry.
澡豆/Zǎodòu was made from the combination of powdered pig pancreas, bean powder and other herbs. There are many recipes, such as a recipe by 孙思邈/Sūn Sīmiǎo from Tang dynasty includes 16 materials. They were also known as 胰子/Yízi.
Aromatic herbs and other xiang (fragrant things) could also be added into the water in the end to add pleasant fragrance to the clothes, such as a book in Ming dynasty《多能鄙事》/Duō néng bǐ shì ("I can do a lot of humble things") by 刘基/Liú jī recorded: Tree Peony Bark 31.25g and Spikenard 3.125g, powdered.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled aesthetic posting with a special message about the upcoming science-fiction YA novel IRON WIDOW by non-binary cosplayer, history buff, and YouTube sensation Xiran Jay Zhao (links to their website in the next post)
I have a longer, more formal “review” of this book scheduled for the release date (September 21st, 2021) but I really, really want to hype this book up as much as possible as early as possible to encourage people to pre-order it. I haven’t been this excited about a YA book in quite a while. Let me tell you why!
- It was pitched as PACIFIC RIM meets THE HANDMAID’S TALE in a world inspired by Chinese folklore and history, where boy-girl teams pilot giant mecha to fight alien monsters -- but the psychic strain usually kills the girls. But only the girls....hmmm...something fishy is going on here...
- The main character is a reimagining of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor of China, who decides she’s going to assassinate the boy who murdered her older sister by volunteering to be his next co-pilot. She assassinates him so well that she kills him through their psychic link and becomes a dreaded IRON WIDOW!
- This makes her very interesting to the government, which would really prefer to make her disappear, but can’t afford to waste that kind of psychic power -- so they pair her up with a ~dangerous criminal~ to pilot a new mecha, confident that he will be psychically strong enough to overpower her
- This backfires spectacularly, and suddenly Wu Zetian and her co-pilot have to manipulate both pop culture and the government just to stay alive.
- Plot ensues.
Why should you read this book?
Go back and re-read that plot summary until you understand why BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!!
- We have a polyamorous F/M/M mutual relationship, I repeat, we PRE-EMPTIVELY SOLVE a LOVE TRIANGLE with POLYAMORY
- Wu Zetian is an amazing anti-hero and I mean that with all my heart. She is constantly doing stuff in this book that made me go, “Wait, can you do that?” She WILL cut a bitch. Also, she uses a cane or wheelchair because she has bound feet, and you can tell that Xiran really went the extra mile to think about how to portray this and how it affects the character. A lot of YA protagonists can start to feel “same-y” after a while to me, but Wu Zetian REALLY stands out.
- The world is really, really cool? There is SO MUCH going on with the aliens and the mecha and the world they’re living in which I cannot spoil except to say that your primary emotion through the third act will be “?!!!?!!?!!?!!!” AND even outside of the meta plot, there is so much thought and detail put into the rest of the setting, it is so beautiful and it feels like you’re really there. Plus every character is a reimagining/reference to a historical or folklore figure and it was really neat to go on a little scavenger hunt of “Oh! I recognize that name!”
- IRON WIDOW will do for YA sci-fi what CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE did for YA fantasy -- if it gets support. Xiran has talked about how they couldn’t get an American publisher to even consider publishing this book because publishers didn’t think American audiences would be interested in Chinese folklore or idol culture or a story about giant mecha, which?? Have they MET the internet?? They were also told that schools and libraries will be reluctant to stock IRON WIDOW because of the polyamorous romance. BUT that is why I really hope people show up for this book because it is SO DESERVING OF SUCCESS and it could open so many doors for other writers and for the whole YA landscape
- Xiran Jay Zhao is a really cool non-binary author and their writing is as charismatic and entertaining as their other content. I just think they’re neat!
Female Europid Mummy from the Necropolis of Subexi III, Grave M6, Turfan District, Xinjiang. 5th-3rd C. BCE. Source: Baumer, Christoph.The history of Central Asia. Vol.1. The age of the steppe warriors. London : I.B. Tauris, 2012. pg. 218 left DS329.4 .B38 2012. Image via University of Pennsylvania. See maps in the post before this one for a better understanding of the geography discussed.
"Section 26 – The Kingdom of Nearer [i.e. Southern] Jushi 車師前 (Turfan)
1. ‘Nearer Jushi’ 車師前 refers to the kingdom or state centered in the Turfan oasis or, sometimes, to the tribe which controlled it. There can be no question that Nearer Jushi refers here to the Turfan Oasis. See for example: CICA, p. 183, n. 618; also note 1.5 above. For the etymology of the name Turfan see Bailey (1985), pp. 99-100, which is summed up in his sentence: “The name turpana- is then from *druva-pāna- ‘having safe protection’, a name suitable for a walled place.”
“One other oasis town is currently under excavation. At Yarghul (Jiaohe), 10 km (16 miles) [sic – this should read 10 miles (16 km)] west of Turpan, archaeologists have been excavating remains of the old Jushi capital, a long (1,700 m (5,580 ft)) but narrow (200 m (656 ft)) town between two rivers. From the Han period they uncovered vast collective shaft tombs (one was nearly 10 m (33 ft) deep). The bodies had apparently already been removed from these tombs but accompanying them were other pits containing form one to four horse sacrifices, with tens of horses for each of the larger burials.” Mallory and Mair (2000), pp. 165 and 167.
“Some 300 km (186 miles) to the west of Qumul [Hami] lie [mummy] sites in the vicinity of the Turpan oasis that have been assigned to the Ayding Lake (Aidinghu) culture. The lake itself occupies the lowest point in the Turpan region (at 156 m (512 ft) below sea level it is the lowest spot on earth after the Dead Sea). According to accounts of the historical period, this was later the territory of the Gushi, a people who ‘lived in tents, followed the grasses and waters, and had considerable knowledge of agriculture. They owned cattle, horses, camels, sheep and goats. They were proficient with bows and arrows.’ They were also noted for harassing travellers moving northwards along the Silk Road from Krorän, and the territories of the Gushi and the kingdom of Krorän were linked in the account of Zhang Qian, presumably because both were under the control of the Xiongnu. In the years around 60 BC, Gushi fell to the Chinese and was subsequently known as Jushi (a different transcription of the same name).” Mallory and Mair (2000), pp. 143-144.
“History records that in 108 BC Turpan was inhabited by farmers and traders of Indo-European stock who spoke a language belonging to the Tokharian group, an extinct Indo-Persian language [actually more closely related to Celtic languages]. Whoever occupied the oasis commanded the northern trade route and the rich caravans that passed through annually. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) control over the route see-sawed between Xiongnu and Han. Until the fifth century, the capital of this kingdom was Jiaohe.” Bonavia (1988), p. 131.
“Turpan is principally an agricultural oasis, famed for its grape products – seedless white raisins (which are exported internationally) and wines (mostly sweet). It is some 80 metres (260 feet) below sea level, and nearby Aiding Lake, at 154 metres (505 feet) below sea level, is the lowest continental point in the world.” Ibid. p. 137.
“The toponym Turfan is also a variation of Tuharan. Along the routes of Eurasia there are many other place names recorded in various Chinese forms that are actually variations of Tuharan.” Liu (2001), p. 268."
-Notes to The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu. Second Edition (Extensively Revised and Expanded). John E. Hill. University of Washington.
For people like me who grew up speaking and using Chinese in day to day life, the vast majority of us have at least a basic understanding of what Simplified Chinese is, but it wasn’t until some days ago when an English speaker asked me “what is Simplified Chinese?” that I realized not many people here understand what Simplified Chinese is. So, I’ve gathered some misconceptions I’ve encountered both in real life and online, and I will try to answer them in a concise but factual manner.
But first, let us talk basics. There are three things we must cover first before going into this topic. The first is the fact that both Simplified Chinese (简��中文) and Traditional Chinese (繁體中文) used today are modern standardized systems of written Chinese, as in both were compiled within the past 100 years or so (modern Simplified from 1935-1936, then again from 1956 and on; modern Traditional starting from 1973), and the two currently widely used versions of both systems were officially standardized in the past 50 years (modern Simplified current version standardized in 2013; modern Traditional current version standardized in 1982). However, since simplified characters already exist in history (called 简化字/簡化字 or 俗体字/俗體字/”informal characters”), and “Traditional Chinese” can be taken to mean “written Chinese used in history”, in this post I will use “modern Simplified/Traditional Chinese” or “modern Simplified/Traditional” when referring to the currently used modern standardized systems.
Second is the evolution of written Chinese. Usually when this is taught, instructors use examples of how certain characters evolved over time, for example one might encounter a linear diagram like this in Chinese class:
(Original picture from Mandarinpedia)
However, this diagram only gives a very general idea of how characters evolved from more picture-like logograms to the more abstract symbols we call characters today, and does not reflect the complexity of this evolution at all. To get into these details we will need to talk about Chinese calligraphy. In terms of the evolution of written Chinese, Chinese calligraphy--all those scripts like oracle bone script (甲骨文), bronze/Jinwen script (金文), Seal/Zhuan script (篆书/篆書), Clerical/Li script (隶书/隸書), Regular/Kai script (楷书/楷書), etc--they aren’t just calligraphy fonts, but actually change the way characters are written, and are representative of the commonly used forms of written Chinese at different points in Chinese history, as in the appearance of a certain script on a historical artifact can actually be used to estimate how old the artifact is. Below is a (very) rough timeline of when each script appeared and when they are most popular:
Oracle bone script/Jiaguwen (甲骨文): Shang dynasty (~1600 BC-1046 BC)
Bronze/Jinwen script (金文; includes Large Seal script/大篆): Western Zhou dynasty (~1046 BC-771 BC)
Seal/Zhuan script (篆书/篆書; sometimes called Small Seal script/小篆 or Qin script/秦篆): compiled in Qin dynasty by chancellor Li Si/李斯 around 221 BC, was the official script in Qin dynasty (221 BC-207 AD); popularity went down after Qin dynasty but was still in use for ceremonial purposes like official seals (the archaic meaning of 篆 is “official seal”, hence the English name); still in use today in very specific areas like seal stamps, calligraphy, logos, and art.
Clerical/Li script (隶书/隸書): appeared in Qin dynasty, became the main script used in Han dynasty (202 BC-220 AD); popularity went down after Han dynasty but was still in use; still in use today in specific areas like calligraphy, inscriptions/signatures on traditional Chinese paintings, logos, and other art.
Regular/Kai script (楷书/楷書): appeared in late Han dynasty, became the main script used in Tang dynasty and has been popular ever since (618 AD-present).
(Note: there are other calligraphy scripts like Semi-Cursive script/行书/行書 and Cursive script/草书/草書 that were never mainstream yet were also significant, especially in the case of modern Simplified Chinese, but I will mention them later so this won’t become too confusing)
So if we plug the information from the very rough timeline above into the linear diagram, it becomes this:
But wait! There’s even more! Because there is a thing called variant Chinese characters/异体字/異體字, which basically means that there have been multiple ways in which a character can be written (“one character, many forms”/一字多形), and these can come about as a result of homophones, personal preference of historically significant people, historical trends, mistakes in the past that stuck around, or the result of stylized scripts like Cursive script/草书/草書, which simplifies and connects strokes in a liberal manner. The reason Cursive script is important here is because of the logographic nature of written Chinese, meaning the simplifying or connecting of strokes actually changes how the character is written. Because of this, 马 and 馬 were forms that have already existed before modern Simplified and modern Traditional were compiled. A diagram that takes variations and evolution into account should look something like this:
And since the above diagram did not take Cursive script into account, here’s another picture of a myriad of scripts/fonts (not in chronological order) that includes 馬 in Cursive script (mostly on bottom left):
Now you may have an idea of where modern Simplified and Traditional Chinese came from: they are both compiled from existing variants. Since both modern Simplified and modern Traditional are supposed to be standardizations of written Chinese, they each set a single variant for each character as the “standard”. Modern Traditional Chinese kept the more historically mainstream 馬, and modern Simplified Chinese substituted it with the simpler variant 马. Taking all of this into account but still keeping it concise for our topic here, our linear diagram from the beginning should be modified to look like this:
And that’s just an example of a single character. This evolution diagram can differ depending on the character too, due to there being other rules for simplifying characters. This is why standardizing written Chinese is an immense amount of work, but once standardized, the written language will be streamlined and much easier to use in communication.
Finally, we are ready to clear some misconceptions.
About Common Misconceptions Regarding Modern Simplified Chinese:
“Simplified Chinese replaced all Traditional Chinese characters”. Untrue. Modern Simplified Chinese only standardized 2274 of the most used Chinese characters and 14 radicals with simpler variants. That’s really all there is to it. For reference there are a total of about 60,000 Chinese characters, and about 3,500 of these are deemed to be often-used characters; so only ~3.7% of all Chinese characters and ~65% of often-used Chinese characters are simplified in modern Simplified Chinese. Play around with any online tool that can switch between modern Simplified and modern Traditional, and you will find that many characters stayed the same.
“Simplified Chinese is the opposite of Traditional Chinese”. Untrue. Modern Simplified Chinese is just a simplified and standardized system of written Chinese. Modern Simplified Chinese and modern Traditional Chinese are not “opposites” of each other at all, just different standardized systems serving different purposes. Modern Simplified was compiled with ease of use in mind, since Traditional characters can be time-consuming to write, for example imagine writing 聲 (sound) when you can just write 声 instead. Also back when Simplified was being introduced to the public, a huge part of the population was illiterate, especially farmers, poor people, and women, so Simplified Chinese was a great way to quickly educate them on reading and writing, and to improve efficiency in all aspects of life. Knowing how to read and write is key to education, and education is a must if people's lives were to be improved at all.
“Simplified Chinese is Mandarin”. Untrue. Mandarin is a spoken dialect that came from Beijing dialect, and both modern Simplified and modern Traditional Chinese are modern standardized systems of written Chinese. One concerns the written language and the other concerns a spoken dialect.
"Simplified Chinese was invented by the Communist Party". Untrue. As mentioned before, most characters used in modern Simplified Chinese are already present in ancient texts, artifacts, and inscriptions as variants. Apparently the only character simplified by PRC was 簾 (blinds/curtain), which became 帘 in modern Simplified Chinese. History wise, Republic of China was the first to start compiling Simplified Chinese in 1935 and introducing it to the public, but this was called off after 4 months. PRC modified and built on the original plan, and introduced it to the public again starting from 1956.
"Simplified Chinese is to Traditional Chinese as Newspeak is to English in 1984". Completely untrue. Modern Simplified Chinese is just a simplified way to write commonly used Chinese characters and does not alter the meaning of the characters. There are some Traditional characters that are combined as one simplified character in modern Simplified, but the meanings are not lost or altered. For example, 發 fā (development) and 髪 fà (hair) are combined as 发 in modern Simplified, resulting in 发 having 2 different pronunciations (both fā and fà), and each of these pronunciations carrying their original meaning. The meaning of neither 發 nor 髪 was lost, 发 will just have a longer dictionary entry.
"Simplified Chinese is a huge change from Traditional Chinese". Only partly true in that it is a change, but it is a change justified by the evolution of written Chinese throughout history. The origin of most modern Simplified Chinese characters come straight from history itself, since many characters had alternative ways in which they were written (sometimes for convenience), for example these characters below. Each row contains different forms of a single character (smaller characters indicate what time period these variants are from; ex: 汉碑 means the variant is from a Han dynasty inscription).
In reality, written Chinese has always been standardizing itself. Less-used variants become forgotten over time, sometimes only rediscovered through archaeology. Besides, effective written communication does partly rely on standardization of the written language (imagine everyone writing in the various variants...how horrible would that be?). Modern Simplified just took this one step farther and made some characters easier to write.
“Traditional Chinese is no longer used in Mainland China”. Untrue. Modern Simplified is the commonly used form in Mainland China, but Traditional is still used in a variety of places, such as on store signs/brand logos, particularly for stores/brand that are old. For example the old Beijing brand 天福号 below (est. 1738). On their logo, 天福号 is written as 天福號 from right to left, which is the traditional way of writing horizontally.
Traditional Chinese is also used in the logos for many universities in China:
Another way in which Traditional Chinese is commonly used in mainland China are personal seal stamps. Often times when people carve seal stamps for personal use (for example showing ownership on artwork they created or collected), they would put their name/courtesy name/nickname on the seal stamps in Zhuan/篆 calligraphy font, and Zhuan font use Traditional Chinese. Of course, the ways in which Traditional Chinese is still used in mainland China isn’t restricted to these two examples here. There are other places where Traditional Chinese is still used, such as traditional paintings/国画, calligraphy/书法, and many many more.
“People who grew up reading Simplified Chinese cannot read Traditional Chinese”. Depends on who you are asking. I grew up learning only modern Simplified, and I can read Traditional/modern Traditional Chinese just fine without having to actually learn it from anyone. Most people who grew up with Simplified Chinese should be able to read at least some Traditional without help. There are some people who say they can’t read Traditional without taking the time to learn it, but I doubt they’ve really tried, to be very honest.
My personal philosophy regarding modern Simplified Chinese and modern Traditional Chinese can be summed up as 识繁写简, or basically “know how to read Traditional and know how to write Simplified”. In a way, knowing how to read Traditional is a bit like knowing how to read cursive: a lot of history could be lost if we completely stopped using/learning about Traditional Chinese, but to meet the fast pace that modern life demands, I think modern Simplified Chinese is the more convenient choice for writing for day-to-day purposes. Since quite a few posts on this blog concern history, you will find that I usually use both Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese for historical things, since modern Traditional Chinese is closest to what people used in the past, and modern Simplified Chinese is more often used now. If it appears that I didn’t put modern Simplified and modern Traditional side by side, that usually means either the characters stayed the same and there’s no need for me to type the same thing out again, or the topic does not call for both to be shown.
Finally, the fun part. Here’s a Seal/Zhuan script calligraphy work by Mi Fu/米芾 (1051-1107):
Married Mongolian Women’s Hairstyle in the Yuan Dynasty
Mongolians have a long history of shaving and cutting their hair in specific styles to signal socioeconomic, marital, and ethnic status that spans thousands of years. The cutting and shaving of the hair was also regarded as an important symbol of change and transition. No Mongolian tradition exemplifies this better than the first haircut a child receives called Daah Urgeeh, khüükhdiin üs avakh (cutting the child’s hair), or örövlög ürgeekh (clipping the child’s crest) (Mongulai, 2018)
The custom is practiced for boys when they are at age 3 or 5, and for girls at age 2 or 4. This is due to the Mongols’ traditional belief in odd numbers as arga (method) [also known as action, ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠤᠯ, арга] and even numbers as bilig (wisdom) [ᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭ, билиг].
The Mongolian concept of arga bilig (see above) represents the belief that opposite forces, in this case action [external] and wisdom [internal], need to co-exist in stability to achieve harmony. Although one may be tempted to call it the Mongolian version of Yin-Yang, arga bilig is a separate concept altogether with roots found not in Chinese philosophy nor Daoism, but Eurasian shamanism.
However, Mongolian men were not the only ones who shaved their hair. Mongolian women did as well.
Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer, William of Rubruck [Willem van Ruysbroeck] (1220-1293) was among the earliest Westerners to make detailed records about the Mongol Empire, its court, and people. In one of his accounts he states the following:
But on the day following her marriage, (a woman) shaves the front half of her head, and puts on a tunic as wide as a nun's gown, but everyway larger and longer, open before, and tied on the right side. […] Furthermore, they have a head-dress which they call bocca [boqtaq/gugu hat] made of bark, or such other light material as they can find, and it is big and as much as two hands can span around, and is a cubit and more high, and square like the capital of a column. This bocca they cover with costly silk stuff, and it is hollow inside, and on top of the capital, or the square on it, they put a tuft of quills or light canes also a cubit or more in length. And this tuft they ornament at the top with peacock feathers, and round the edge (of the top) with feathers from the mallard's tail, and also with precious stones. The wealthy ladies wear such an ornament on their heads, and fasten it down tightly with an amess [J: a fur hood], for which there is an opening in the top for that purpose, and inside they stuff their hair, gathering it together on the back of the tops of their heads in a kind of knot, and putting it in the bocca, which they afterwards tie down tightly under the chin.
TLDR: Mongolian women shaved the front half of their head and covered it with a boqta, the tall Mongolian headdress worn by noblewomen throughout the Mongol empire. Rubruck observed this hairstyle in noblewomen (boqta was reserved only for noblewomen). It’s not clear whether all women, regardless of status, shaved the front of their heads after marriage and whether it was limited to certain ethnic groups.
When I learned about that piece of information, I was simply going to leave it at that but, what actually motivated me to write this post is to show what I believe to be evidence of what Rubruck described. By sheer coincidence, I came across these Yuan Dynasty empress paintings:
Portrait of Empress Dowager Taji Khatun [ᠲᠠᠵᠢ ᠬᠠᠲᠤᠨ, Тажи xатан], also known as Empress Zhaoxian Yuansheng [昭獻元聖皇后] (1262 - 1322) from album of Portraits of Empresses. Artist Unknown. Ink and color on silk, Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368). National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan [image source].
Portrait of Unnamed Imperial Consort from album Portraits of Empresses. Artist Unknown. Ink and color on silk. Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368). National Palace Mueum in Taiper, Taiwan [image source].
Portrait of unnamed wife of Gegeen Khan [ᠭᠡᠭᠡᠨ ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ, Гэгээн хаан], also known as Shidibala [ᠰᠢᠳᠡᠪᠠᠯᠠ, 碩德八剌] and Emperor Yingzong of Yuan [英宗皇帝] (1302-1323) from album Portraits of Empresses. Artist Unknown. Ink and color on silk. Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368), early 14th century. National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan [image source].
To me, it’s evident that the hair of those women is shaved at the front. The transparent gauze strip allows us to clearly see their hairstyle. The other Yuan empress portraits have the front part of the head covered, making it impossible to discern which hairstyle they had. I wonder if the transparent gauze was a personal style choice or if it was part of the tradition such that, after shaving the hair, the women had to show that they were now married by showcasing the shaved part.
As shaving or cutting the hair was a practice linked by nomads with transitioning or changing from one state to another (going from being single to married, for example), it would not be a surprise if the women regrew it.
Mongulai. (2018, April 19). Tradition of cutting the hair of the child for the first time.
Ruysbroeck, W. V. & Giovanni, D. P. D. C., Rockhill, W. W., ed. (1900) The journey of William of Rubruck to the eastern parts of the world, 1253-55, as narrated by himself, with two accounts of the earlier journey of John of Pian de Carpine. Hakluyt Society London. Retrieved from the University of Washington’s Silk Road texts.