Knowing vs. Being Skilled – Go

As I have been making notes and brain maps and other such things on Chivalric/Christian virtues, Admonitions of Peerage, Judaic ethical concepts, and the Five Constants of Confucianism, I’ve been thinking a bit about peerages in general.

Remember this bit of Corpora?

They shall have made every effort to learn and practice those skills desirable at and worthy of a civilized court. To this end they should have some knowledge of a wide range of period forms, including but not limited to literature, dancing, music, heraldry, and chess, and they should have some familiarity with combat as practiced in the Society.

SCA Governing Documents, VIII.A.1.g. [Source]

See that! CHESS!

Nobody said you had to be good at chess. Just knowledgeable and, well, practiced. I’ve never been a good chess player. I’m bad at that sort of spatial reasoning, and I have a hard time thinking several moves ahead. I enjoy chess, but as a casual player.

But as someone who has spent the last four-ish years eye-deep in the Tang Dynasty, playing chess doesn’t really fit. But playing Go does! And Go is pretty much chess. It’s about territory control and capturing enemy pieces to score points.

And I’m not good at it.

There are some excellent videos out there that walk you through the basics of a Go game and can help you wrap your head around the concepts. But understanding how a game is played and being a “good player” are two very different things.

We played Go in the Extra-European Salon at the Meridian Grand Tournament in September, and I was so very thankful that someone who was much more knowledgeable about the game helped me think through moves and played a few games with us. He recommended using puzzles to help hone your skill. I feel like I’d have to do a lot of puzzles to hammer the trickier concepts into my head, but hey – that’s Go.

There is also a free app that I have played now and again, but I’m still heavily reliant on the hint button. [Here is a list of iOS apps.]

This is one of those things that I’ll get better with in time, which means making an effort to play a bit on my phone every day, or carting around my 9×9/13×13 board and bags of stones. Maybe I’ll make a small 9×9 board on a piece of fabric and bug people at events to play with me. Maybe.

Throwing arrows at a pot is a different kind of fun, and totally a worthy and desirable skill in the upper echelons of the Tang Dynasty. (Psst. You can see a pot with its arrows in the back of a scene of scholars playing Go with Li Wei painted on a screen. But it’s a game of skill, not strategy. And involves more wine.

I’m working on some class notes for Tang Dynasty Games, which I’ll be teaching at Magna Faire – hope to see you there!

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A Tale of Two (Linen) Skirts

Two linen skirts, both comparable in dignity.

I have two Tang Dynasty skirts made of linen. One is pretty pastel pink-and-purple. The other is kick-you-in-the-face orange.

The pink skirt is a split skirt, meaning that it is two panels pleated to bands with ties that are seamed at the sides, with a gap at the top so that it can be wrapped around the wearer’s waist and tied.

My pink skirt, looking kind of orange and in need of an ironing before I wear it again.

The orange skirt is a single-panel wrap skirt. It’s still a panel pleated to a band, but it is one long panel – long enough to wrap around the wearer 1.5 times, with ties at each end. It’s worn very similarly to a modern wrap skirt.

So. Much. Orange.

Here’s a (cued) video showing how to wear both kinds of skirt. (I can’t speak to the two-toned tie method’s period accuracy, since I haven’t seen ties in paintings that look like they are two colors, but it sure looks cool!)

Before I launch into the specifics regarding these two styles of skirt when they are made of linen, let’s talk about wrap and split skirts during the Tang Dynasty. The extant skirt we have from the Song Dynasty 1 and the doll-sized skirts from the Tang Dynasty 2 all appear to be of the single-panel wrap variety; however, we have some pictorial evidence of split skirts.

Detail of A Palace Concert, potentially showing evidence for the two-panel style skirt 3

Two ladies on the right side of the table in A Palace Concert appear to have split skirts, perhaps with a secondary skirt worn beneath. The lower lady, wearing a pale pink printed shirt and a pale skirt with a green tie. Deciphering what we are seeing here is a little rough, not only due to the degradation of the painting. It is possible that the split in the paler fabric of the skirt is instead the hanging piece of the lady’s skirt tie, but given the position at her underarm and the way the skirt folds move around it makes me question that theory.

Like the lady below her, the flute-player’s pale skirt is divided at the side to reveal a triangle of red fabric with some sort of design. She is also wearing a red pibo, but the shawl clearly flows down her back and across her chest as opposed to under her arm. Even if it was tucked inside her skirt’s waistband, which we occasionally see in other images, the fact that we can see it would still stand as evidence of a two-panel skirt.

In addition to A Palace Concert, ladies on the north wall of Mogao Cave 107 are wearing two skirts, the top-most of which has a very deep split.


Detail of mural on the north wall of Cave 107, showing split-style skirts, as well as skirts with horizontal stripes.4

So to the question of which is more period, there might be a distinction to be made between the two styles of skirts based on region or a narrower time period, given the fluctuation of fashion during the Tang Dynasty, but I haven’t yet dug that far to find/make that distinction. Cave 107 is dated to late Tang (827-859), while the A Palace Concert is anonymous, making it more difficult to date.

I (usually) wear linen skirts at events where I am chasing small children, because small children don’t understand that sticky applesauce or banana hands on Mama’s silk is a bad idea. But I learned something about linen skirts when I wore the orange one at Known World Costume and Fiber Arts in Georgia this summer – single panel wrap linen skirts with linen ties do not want to stay up.

This is possibly and very likely due to the weight of the linen and the way the linen-on-linen ties act. Silk is stronger, and has a bit of tooth compared to linen that helps it grip. My very first Tang Dynasty skirt had bias cut silk ribbon ties, but they weren’t heavy enough and were too slick to do the job, so my subsequent skirts had either poly-satin ribbon ties (which is fine in a pinch) or ties I made myself out of fabric tubes or folded and stitched silk.

The pink, two-panel split skirt has never slipped the same way that the orange one did. I think it’s because the weight of the skirt is split between two sets of ties. Also – in my experience, if you want to embrace the cleavage-y aspect of Tang Dynasty clothing, go with silk. My linen skirts do better if they sit at the top of your chest, so that your breasts can help support the fabric, as opposed to across the middle.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree and outdoor
Me, wearing the red silk skirt with the Sartor silk band that Mistress Una made for me.

The width of the ties make a difference too. I’ve noticed that my big band skirt that my Laurel, Mistress Una, made for me, tends to sag a bit at the sides. I think that if I replace the poly-satin ribbon ties with wider, silk ties (at least as wide as the band itself), I can fix this issue. As it is, the narrower ties are secured at the top of the band, meaning that the bottom of the band sags.

If you compare the photo above to the photo below, where I am wearing a skirt with a thinner waistband, the silk ties are in better proportion to the waistband, and do a much better job at… well, their job. (These are both two-panel skirts, by the way).

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, stripes, child and outdoor
Me in my stripey split panel silk skirt.

The next few events on my docket are sans children, so I think I’ll tackle the Sartor skirt first in terms of fixing stuff. Then I can figure out how to best turn a the orange wrap skirt into a split skirt, so that I can wear it around a toddler without fear of malfunction.

  1.  Zhou, X.; Gao, C. (1987). 5000 years of Chinese costumes. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press. p. 123.
  2. Chen, B. Y. (2013). Dressing for the times: Fashion in Tang Dynasty China (618-907). (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Academic Commons. (doi: 10.7916/D8KK9B6D). p. 92.
  3. “唐人宮樂圖 (A Palace Concert).” (618-907). National Palace Museum. Retreived from https://theme.npm.edu.tw/selection/Article.aspx?sNo=04000957&lang=2.
  4. “Mogao Grottoes Cave 107.” Digital Dunhuang. Retrieved from: https://www.e-dunhuang.com/cave/10.0001/0001.0001.0107.
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Child’s sock, from Musée Guimet

museeguimet:

Chaussette (ou sous-chaussure ?) d’enfant

dynastie Tang (618-90
damas, sergé, soie
Chine

© Musée Guimet, Paris, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Benjamin Soligny / Raphaël Chipault

Section Textile du musée Guimet

So apparently the Musée Guimet’s tumblr is now defunct. This post is originally from December 29, 2013. This is me testing this to see if I can cite the reblog… Because you always cite your stuff. <3

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Debunking the “Hezi-Qun”

I’ve been working on an overhaul of my garb documentation, which is turning into this massively long thing that will be my “handout” at Known World Costume and Fiber. I finished this section this week, and thought I should share it here. Enjoy!

There is a popular theory in online hanfu communities, both predominantly Chinese-speaking and English-speaking, that the hezi  (upper undergarment during the Tang Dynasty) was worn so that it was visible. To support this there are three images that are usually pointed to as evidenece: the painting Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses, attributed to Zhou Fang (c. 730–800), the relief carvings and paintings of female attendants and musicians in the tomb of Wang Chuzhi (863-923), and murals from the Dunhuang Cave 61 (10th century).

EDIT: I recognize that these sources don’t fully fall within Tang, and are more likely Five Dynasties & Ten Kingdoms (though we don’t have solid date on when Court Ladies was painted), but since they are used to argue for a Tang Dynasty fashion/item, I’m looking at them in that context. Fashion is, as we know, fluid. Thanks!

The theory holds that the hezi was worn either so that the skirt was tied so that the top was visible, or else worn on top of the skirt.

Before we look at the images, let’s take a moment to talk about the hezi
in a more general sense. First of all, we don’t know a lot. We don’t have any extants. The only images we have are artistic renderings that all follow the same idea of a tube-shaped garment with a curved front neckline that stops at the hip and has some sort of band or tie under the bust. The two best sources I have been able to find for Chinese undergarments are Fantasy Beyond Body 1 and Jamie Johns’s unofficial Fulbright blog about the history of breast binding in China. 2 Johns looks at Chinese language sources on the history of Chinese undergarments and makes the same observation many of us have (which Fantasy Beyond Body is also indicative of) – the lack of solid citations. Fantasy Beyond Body at least will say where something was excavated from – most of the time. It doesn’t for the Tang garments it proposes.

So there is a lot of speculation, which is probably why the Hezi-Qun theory got footing in the first place, spurred on, no doubt, by the fun costumes from Chinese historical dramas.

The Empress of China (simplified Chinese: 武媚娘传奇) is a 2014 Chinese television drama based on events in 7th and 8th-century Tang dynasty, starring producer Fan Bingbing as the titular character Wu Zetian—the only female emperor in Chinese history.
But honestly? Even this screenshot of Zhang Ting as Consort Wei from the Empress of China looks like what some would say is the Hezi-Qun is just the band of her skirt. But that slight sweetheart neckline is … no. Sorry, Noble Consort. (And don’t get me started on the robe thing.)

Advocates of the theory claim that the hezi is a wide strip of cloth (based on images, approximately 5-6″ wide) that is worn on top of the skirt. A cloth tie is then tied on top of it to hide the border between the hezi and the skirt. But… based on how Tang Dynasty skirts are made…. why would you do this? Even some modern hanfu manufacturers attach this so-called hezi to the skirt, effectively making it a decorative band. Then again, I have no idea how these skirts are constructed (I’ve never bought one to fiddle with), so I’m not sure what’s actually going on with the ties.

We should also note, before going any further, that Johns discusses two different Chinese-language sources on her blog, both of which use the term 亵衣 (xie yi, “obscene clothing”) to refer to undergarments.3 So the notion that such a intimate and taboo item of clothing would be worn in plain view doesn’t jive for me – not even during High Tang (c. 713-766) when the party was still going strong, women had unprecedented freedom of expression, and life was generally pretty swanky if you were an aristocrat. Also, all the example images are either from High Tang or after.

Instead, I believe that what others are interpreting as a visible hezi is rather an elaborately decorated, curved, or scalloped skirt band.

Let’s look at some images.

In Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses, there is a clear seam line below the twisted skirt tie. The skirt tie sits on top of the band, and the seam appears to be between the band and the pleated skirt, thus dismissing the notion that the decorated and curved-edged skirt band is instead an undergarment.

The placement of the skirt band is lower in the stone relief from Wang Chuzhi’s tomb, covering where this seam would be in some instances and falling below it in others. The skirt bands here are scalloped, and again, I see no evidence that they are separate garments worn on top of the skirt. They have been painted a different color, as has the band in a mural from the same tomb, but in the mural, the seam between the skirt and the band is obscured by the woman’s hands and the bowl she carries, making this evidence inconclusive.

Painted stone relief from Wang Chuzhi’s tomb. [Source]
Mural from Wang Chuzhi’s tomb. [Source]

There are two poses the women on the southwestern and southeastern walls of Cave 61 at Dunhuang. Some women are holding offerings while others are not. Clear images of both are difficult to find online that are not reproductions or artistic renderings, and the image I was able to pull from the digital panorama of the cave is fuzzy. Still, the decorative band at the top of the skirt is visible on both the figures to the right in the first image, and I believe the lower tie on the figure wearing the phoenix crown is not her skirt tie, but additional ornamentation. It should also be noted that the two rightmost figures in the first image are (from left to right) the mother of a Cao Yuanzhong, King of Guiyi, and the Great Empress of Khotan and daughter of Cao Yinjin. Both of these women are part of the Guiyi royal family, a kingdom subordinate to the Tang and Northern Song Dynasties. 4 5 We might be seeing some Khotanese influence in their clothing.

The southeastern wall of Cave 61. [Source]
Screenshot from the digital panoramic view of Cave 61, showing the attendant ladies to the donor’s wife on the southwestern wall. [Source]

Okay, so what IS the hezi?

After staring at extant garments from the Song and Yuan Dynasties and all the descriptions of the Tang Dynasty hezi I can find, my best guess is that the hezi was a tubular garment made of a heavier weight silk, 6 potentially lined, 7 and closed with buttons 8. No artistic rendering of the hezi includes these buttons, but the 合欢襟 (hehuanjin, Yuan Dynasty) has “flower buttons” in the front 9. These may be more like frog and loop clasps than what we would think of as “buttons,” given that the buttons used to fasten the collars of round-collared robes are cloth with loops.

Am I 100% right on this? Doubtfully. Am I going to try to make a hezi with buttons and see how it works? You bet your bippy I am.

  1. 潘建华著. (2005). 云缕心衣 : 中国古代内衣文化. 上海: 上海古籍出版社. | Pan Jianhua zhu. (2005) Fantasy beyond body: the civilization of Chinese underwear in ancient times. Shanghai: Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House. ISBN: 7532540944
  2. Johns, J. (2010 Oct – 2010 Dec). We drive east. WordPress. Retrieved from: https://wedriveeast.wordpress.com/
  3. Johns, J. (4 June 2011). “China’s Disappearing Clothing.” We drive east. WordPress. Retrieved from: https://wedriveeast.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/chinas-disappearing-clothing/
  4. “Mogao Grottoes Cave 061.” Digital Dunhuang. Retrieved from: https://www.e-dunhuang.com/cave/10.0001/0001.0001.0061
  5. Liu Mu-Ching. (2013). “Replication of four patroness on the mural of mogao grotto 61’s southeastern wall.” 石窟藝術與數位犁技整合研究計畫 (The Study of the Integration of Grotto Art and Preservation). Retrieved from http://imlab.tw/dunhuang/en/p22.html
  6. Johns, J. (4 June 2011). “China’s Disappearing Clothing.” We drive east. WordPress. Retrieved from: https://wedriveeast.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/chinas-disappearing-clothing/
  7. 潘建华著. (2005). 云缕心衣 : 中国古代内衣文化. 上海: 上海古籍出版社. | Pan Jianhua zhu. (2005) Fantasy beyond body: the civilization of Chinese underwear in ancient times. Shanghai: Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House. pp. 2-3
  8. 潘建华著. (2005). 云缕心衣 : 中国古代内衣文化. 上海: 上海古籍出版社. | Pan Jianhua zhu. (2005) Fantasy beyond body: the civilization of Chinese underwear in ancient times. Shanghai: Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House. p. 17
  9. 潘建华著. (2005). 云缕心衣 : 中国古代内衣文化. 上海: 上海古籍出版社. | Pan Jianhua zhu. (2005) Fantasy beyond body: the civilization of Chinese underwear in ancient times. Shanghai: Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House. p. 17
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A modern look at the 2 panel split skirt

what is that high chest skirt that is split? Is okay if you reference more?

Anonymous

fouryearsofshades:

Of course!

Most modern chest-high shirt were made with two piece of rectangular fabric, sewn together on the side, but leaving some portion on the top separate. The design was inspired by andon bakama but the vents are not visible when worn as the top of the skirt should be overlapping. 

image

The dressing process:

image
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Historically, some skirts did have very visible splits. Hence, the outer chest-high skirt was mere decorative, unlike today’s skirt, which is the actual layer that functions to cover up the torso properly. They were mostly from late Tang. 

image

One of the cons of using this modern cutting for chest-high skirt is that it is possible to made the front piece longer than the back piece so that the length of the skirt is just right for the both the front and the back of the body. This is a modern concern, as seen above, those ladies doesn’t seem to care that their skirt was touching the ground.

Hope this answer your question! Do contact me if you have any more problem.

Tang stuff – one of my current research bits is the wrap vs. split skirt.

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