The Search for the Beautiful Woman: A Cultural History of Japanese and Chinese Beauty (Asia/Pacific/Perspectives)
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While a slender body is a prerequisite for beauty today, plump women were considered ideal in Tang Dynasty China and Heian-period Japan. Starting around the Southern Song period in China, bound feet symbolized the attractiveness of women. But in Japan, shaved eyebrows and blackened teeth long were markers of loveliness.
For centuries, Japanese culture was profoundly shaped by China, but in complex ways that are only now becoming apparent. In this first full comparative history of the subject, Cho Kyo explores changing standards of feminine beauty in China and Japan over the past two millennia. Drawing on a rich array of literary and artistic sources gathered over a decade of research, he considers which Chinese representations were rejected or accepted and transformed in Japan. He then traces the introduction of Western aesthetics into Japan starting in the Meiji era, leading to slowly developing but radical changes in representations of beauty. Through fiction, poetry, art, advertisements, and photographs, the author vividly demonstrates how criteria of beauty differ greatly by era and culture and how aesthetic sense changed in the course of extended cultural transformations that were influenced by both China and the West.
situation in which everyone can look beautiful, even if of artificial creation, has reduced the impact of beautiful looks. This is the reason that today “ruining the castle, ruining the state” is no longer possible: neither the state nor a company is ruined because of a beautiful woman. On the other hand, the fact that beautiful looks can be obtained with money is bringing an important change. Namely, there is no longer absolute beauty. If everyone becomes a more or less similarly “beautiful
in the third century. Red Poppy, The (Gubijinsō 虞美人草, 1907). A novel by Natsume Sōseki (夏目漱石). Remarkable Stories New and Old (Jingu qiguan 今古奇観). A late Ming collection of vernacular stories by Baoweng Laoren (抱甕老人). Restored to Life (Huanhun ji 還魂記). Drama in fifty-five scenes by Tang Xianzu of the Ming period. See The Peony Pavilion (Mudan ting 牡丹亭). Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira (Genpei jōsuiki 源平盛衰記). Also known as An Account of the Genpei Wars. Late Kamakura or early
387–88. 34. Taiheiki (NKBT 35), vol. 2, 357. 35. Masuda Motomu, A Comparative Study of The Taiheiki (“Taiheiki” no hikakubungakuteki kenkyū) (Kadokawa Shoten, 1996). 36. Ichiko Teiji (annotator), Otogi-zōshi (NKBT 38,  1977), 151. 37. Kajiwara Masaaki (annotator and translator), Gikeiki (SNKBZ 62, 2000). 38. Okami Masao (annotator), Gikeiki (NKBT 37,  1977), 61. 7 Edo Culture as a Filter 1. “ADAPTATIONS” OF THE IMAGE OF BEAUTY Importing Images In the Edo period, there was a
“Three Words and Two Slaps.” A poem called “Delicate Fingers” in “An Account of Lanlan” in Supplementary Lamp-Wick Trimming Tales praises slim, white fingers in the following manner: Delicate tender jewel carved into spring scallions Long remained within fragrant thin robes and green sleeves. Yesterday they were on the strings of a zither. Visibly dyeing the entire back of her hand crimson red. Here delicate fingers are likened to thin scallions of the spring. “An Account of Lanlan” raises, as
the eyelids and outer corners of the eyes become wrinkled producing a squint. This worsens the looks of the eyes.” The expression dignified strength refers to the gaze, and does not mean large eyes. As is clear from the statement that eyes that are too large are unsightly, in the Edo period (1600–1867) large eyes were deemed rather unattractive. These accounts suggest that the messages that eyes convey were noted long ago. In other words, eyes that convey a good impression to the viewer are