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China, a History


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Author Topic: China, a History  (Read 3955 times)
Bee Cha
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« Reply #195 on: December 08, 2007, 08:49:14 pm »

Women's social rights and social status during the Tang era were incredibly liberal-minded for the medieval period. However, this was largely reserved for urbane women of elite status, as men and women in the rural countryside labored hard in their different set of tasks; with wives and daughters responsible for more domestic tasks of weaving textiles and rearing of silk worms, while men tended to farming in the fields. There were many women in the Tang era who gained access to religious authority by taking vows as Taoist priestesses. The head mistresses of the bordellos in the North Hamlet (also known as the Gay Quarters) of the capital Chang'an acquired large amounts of wealth and power. Their high-class courtesans, who very much resembled Japanese geishas,  were well respected. These courtesans were known as great singers and poets, supervised banquets and feasts, knew the rules to all the drinking games, and were trained to have the utmost respectable table manners. Although they were renowned for their polite behavior, the courtesans were known to dominate the conversation amongst elite men, and were not afraid to openly castigate or criticize prominent male guests who talked too much or too loudly, boasted too much of their accomplishments, or had in some way ruined dinner for everyone by rude behavior (on one occasion a courtesan even beat up a drunken man who had insulted her). When singing to entertain guests, courtesans not only composed the lyrics to their own songs, but they popularized a new form of lyrical verse by singing lines written by various renowned and famous men in Chinese history.

Women who were full-figured (even plump) were considered attractive by men, as men also enjoyed the presence of assertive, active women. In example of the latter, the foreign horse-riding sport of polo from Persia became a wildly popular trend amongst the Chinese elite, as women often played the sport (as glazed earthenware figurines from the time period portray). The preferred hairstyle for women was to bunch their hair up like "an elaborate edifice above the forehead," while affluent ladies wore extravagant head ornaments, combs, pearl necklaces, face powders, and perfumes.

There were some prominent court women after the era of Empress Wu, such as Yang Guifei (719756), who had Emperor Xuanzong appoint some of her friends and cronies in important ministerial and martial positions.
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