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.
Want to share this?

Practice A&S Like A Fighter

The SCA has a tendency to feel like you’re picking a “lane” to travel down – particularly when it comes to the Arts and Sciences vs. Fighting. If you do both, as several of my close friends do, and you seem to be paying more attention to one than the other, there are those who will interpret your split attention as not being “serious” about the pursuit of the thing you aren’t spending time on at that moment. Which, frankly, is a crock and a half. But that’s another post.

A&S and Fighting are like apples and oranges – they’re different, but they’re both fruit. Most groups hold a weekly fighter practice (sometimes more than once a week) that lasts anywhere from 1 1/2 to 4 hours. In my experience, groups that have an A&S or Project Night only hold them on a monthly basis.

I’ve talked about balance before on this blog, and how hard it can be to balance SCA projects, events, and goals with your modern life when you work, have small children, etc., and that the modern life always, always, always comes before the SCAdian stuff. This balance and my schedule makes it difficult for me to do things like the 100 Days of A&S Challenge – it just doesn’t work for me and my life at the moment.

While chatting with a friend who is prepping for war this week, it hit me that we don’t carve out time to “practice” our A&S the same way that fighters make a point to be at practice every week. So why not? How hard could it be to carve out 1 1/2-2 hours, once a week, to focus on your A&S? Read that book you just bought. Work on the project that’s collecting dust. Tell the people in your life that every Tuesday night from 6:30 – 8 PM, you’re doing this thing. If your local group has their A&S/Project Night monthly, consider making your “A&S Practice” the same day of the week and time, so you can join in.

Depending on your A&S, you could invite others to join you, as a weekly project night. A good chunk of my A&S time is me with my nose in a book taking notes, so that’s not really conducive to company or people chatting, so do what works best for you. The point is to practice. Practice your research. Practice your craft. Practice teaching (writing blog posts, articles for your newsletter, handouts to share, making videos etc.).

A&S is a skill – both the researching and the doing – that can be honed just like fighting.

Want to share this?

Vetting Sources – The Book Review

One of the first things I do when I discover a new monograph (that’s a fancy word for book) source is look for reviews.

The academic publishing field can be pretty brutal. You publish your book, and there will be reviews of it that will be published in the various journals that have the same readership you’d like your book to have. These reviews might be glowing, encouraging people, usually fellow academics or library professionals, to add your book to their collections, or scathing, warning those same people away from your shoddy research and inaccurate conclusions.

This is an excellent way to vet a book – it’s similar to the customer review section of any online shopping website, only these are academics who, presumably, are well-versed in their field and so are coming to the book with a contextual body of knowledge.

So how do you search for book reviews? The same way you search for other journal articles! The key here is that the title of the book and the author are going to be your search terms. You can sometimes get hits by searching Google/Google Scholar, but if you want to be very specific, you can go straight to the journal you want to look in (you know, the one you have already saved fifteen articles from), or you can search databases like JSTOR, Proquest, or Taylor and Francis.

Sometimes, the reviews will be mixed. Sometimes they will be united in their critique. But it’s always a good idea to get a sampling, so you’re not relying on one person’s opinion. It’s also a good idea to look up who the reviewer is to check their credibility on the topic.

And even if the reviews are bad? Well, you still might want to take a look at the book, though maybe through a more cost-efficient method like inter-library loan, but do so with the grains of salt cautioned by the reviewers.

So let’s walk through this.

For this, we’ll look at The Westerners among the Figurines of the T’ang Dynasty of China by Jane Gaston Mahler, published in 1959. This is a series of photographs of tomb figurines with some accompanying text describing their clothing, etc. It’s been awhile since I held this book in my hands, but if memory serves, there was no indication of where the figurines originally came from (which is a problem when looking at this kind of art – because they were often the result of outright tomb robbery in addition to questionably ethical academics coming in to China from abroad). Provenance is important when looking at any extant item. Without provenance, you have no real substantial proof that the Thing is what it is being purported to be. (Psst. Go read Konstantia Kaloethina’s post on the importance of provenance. I will wait.)

I won’t be going into a lot of detail with these reviewers, but you can follow the links to each of their reviews (in JSTOR) to read them yourself. I’ll just be pulling out some of their summary comments.

To begin with, let’s look at Henry Truber’s review (1959), published in Artibus Asiae. Dr. Trubner received his Ph.D. in Fine Arts from Harvard in 1947 and worked as a curator for Oriental Art throughout his career (sorry that this source isn’t better; you’d think it would be easy tracking down credentials of Sinologists from the 1930s-60s…). Truber points out the photographs and discussion of costume as being “a distinct and commendable service to modern scholarship”, but also notes the number of typographical errors as well as Mahler’s tendency to quote well-established facts at length within her text where a footnote would have sufficed. What sticks out to me is his point that Mahler’s “racial” identification methods are faulty (because of course they are – thanks, pre-Civil Rights bunkum. This is a Very Good Reason to pay attention to publication dates and the diction used when people not part of that culture discuss the history of marginalized cultures):

p. 264

Edward H. Schafer‘s own academic focus was on China’s interactions with other cultures during the Tang Dynasty. Dr. Schafer worked as a professor in UCLA Berkeley’s Department of Oriental Languages from 1947-1984, serving as president of the American Oriental Society and receiving many distinctions throughout his career.

In his review (1959), published in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Schafer agrees with Trubner that Mahler’s descriptions of clothing are far more useful than her attempt to classify them by “race” as opposed to region or culture. He also notes Mahler’s clunky, extended use of quotes in her section on the history of Western China.

p. 206

Still, like Trubner, he recommends the book to students, noting that his own criticism as “carping.”

The last review we will look at is by Dr. Richard Edwards, a prominent historian of Asian art who wrote extensively about Chinese paintings and taught at Brandeis University, Washington University in St. Louis (where he was at the time of this review), and the University of Michigan. Edwards’s review (1960) is in the Journal of Asian Studies.

Edwards makes many of the same points that Trubner and Schafer did, but also notes that the twelve pages on clothing need to be taken with a grain of salt:

“We are told (p. 115) that ‘Dignitaries of the seventh and eighth centuries . . . adopted pleated cuffs and bands like the Kuchans (Fig. 6).’ The drawings of the Chinese in Fig. 6 show extremely long sleeves, and if the cuffs are there they cannot be deciphered.”

p. 337

Of the three, Edwards feels the most scathing in the end.

p. 337

There might be more at play here bubbling beneath the surface. All three reviews came out not long after Mahler’s book was published, as would be expected. All three were from men recognized in the field via academic postings or their own research and publications. Remember – Mahler is Jane Mahler. While Schafer worked to see policy changed at the University of California so that women could have full professor status, that was in the 1970s – far be it from us to say whether or not he had these same views of equality a decade prior. I also don’t want to assume that Trubner and Edwards were misogynists, but as sexism in academia is still an issue in 2019, I don’t think it’s an unfair assumption.

I want to point out that Dr. Jane Gaston Mahler was the first woman in the United States to receive a doctorate in Oriental Art History (Columbia, but I can’t find a date). She taught at Barnard College and Columbia University.

All that aside, I hope this exercise was helpful. Again, (scholarly) book reviews can be found anywhere you look for academic articles already – JSTOR, EBSCO, etc. It’s also not a bad idea to keep track of the journals specific to your area of study and check their tables of contents every now and again to see reviews for new titles to add to your wishlist.

Want to share this?

Intellectual Property, Public Domain, and What Are Even Citations

Found in the Internet Wilderness (aka Reddit), shared on social media, and the inspiration for this post.

Hat tip to Mistress Sunneva de Cleia for sharing the horrendous screencap above.

Note: I wrote this very quickly as a response to the image at the very beginning. If I got something wrong, or if you think something could be cleared up, please leave a comment and let me know. We’re all here to help and learn from one another.

Hey. Internet-person.

We need to talk.

We need to talk about what “intellectual property” and “public domain” and “citations” actually mean. Because I think if you knew what they meant, you wouldn’t say things like in the comment at the beginning of this post, and because you’d understand that pointing to the people who said something before you said it actually strengthens what you’re trying to say.

Intellectual Property

I won’t pull out any fancy legaleze here, so don’t worry. It’s a pretty broad term, but Intellectual property is basically:

  • Anything intangible (that means you can’t touch it) you create using your brain-meat and creativity;
  • that is new and didn’t exist before you thought of it (derivative works, meaning works that build off other works are okay); and,
  • that you could apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, or some other legal protection for – meaning that it has to be something that can be turned into something that someone else can interact with – an image, sound, words, invention, etc.
Oh look! A video about IP that’s super easy to understand! Look at that! It’s really a series of seven videos, but… still. It’s trying to take a complex thing and make it simple in 10 minute chunks. Plus, Crash Course is neat.

So okay – for the purposes of our discussion, for which I am going to assume the author of the screenshotted comment was snarking against someone asking for them to credit them, and because this is an SCA blog – let’s work on the assumption that your Intellectual Property is some documentation you’ve written for an A&S project. It’s also the object you made, and any sort of diary you kept to document the process – be that in a blog, in a notebook, or a series of Facebook posts. It’s all Intellectual Property, and it’s all yours – though you may have given some rights to some other entities when you posted it online, such as Facebook or YouTube. Aren’t Terms of Usage of Service great?

Citations

In your documentation, you’re trying out a new method for doing a thing based on a supposition you’ve made after doing your research. Fun! Okay – but you still have to point to that research. That research is the intellectual property of the people who did that research and published it. Citing them – giving them credit – supports your claims and makes you a more credible person. If you cite a source to support a claim, or to lay out the groundwork which you then draw your suppositions from, the people who read your work can look back at those sources and go “Oh! Okay – I see how they got there. Neat!”

If you don’t cite these sources, you’re violating the Intellectual Property Rights of those researchers. You’re basically claiming to have done all the work they did – and you didn’t. If you cite the source, you’re thanking the researchers and acknowledging the work they did. It doesn’t make you lesser than the researchers you cite. Building on what others have done before you is important. Claiming what they did as your own is plagiarism – the theft of intellectual property.

Another video! This one has PUPPETS. 😀

Public Domain

“But if it is on the internet, it’s in the public domain.”

Nope.

The Public Domain is where things previously protected by copyright, patent, trademark, etc. go after that protection has expired. Currently, in the US, that’s 70 years after the death of the author. If it is a work produced by the US Government, it’s likely already in the public domain. Anything published (again, this is US law) before 1924 is fair game.

“Okay, so if it is in the public domain, then I don’t have to cite it?”

I mean, I guess not technically? But it’ll still be pretty nasty of you to do so. It’s not really theft, but again – citing your source is about more than just avoiding prosecution. The Night of the Living Dead is in the Public Domain, but you didn’t write or film it. To not credit Romero makes you just look… bad.

It’s not a good look.

So don’t be gross. Use citations. Give credit to the works you’re building off of – whether they are professional researchers/academics or fellow SCAdians. Be honest about where you found stuff. Be honest about when you’re drawing conclusions. This is how we all benefit and get better and learn from and with each other.

Want to share this?

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
Want to share this?

Alerts!

It’s been a bit, and for that, Oh Internet, I apologize.

One of my 2019 SCA resolutions is to post here at least once a month, so hopefully you will start seeing some “regular” content. My last post is from over 2 years ago, and in that span of time I have done quite a bit, including bringing another child into the world. Much of my current research has been on garment construction in Tang Dynasty China, as part of the Epic Timey-Wimey Garb Project. Don’t fret, though. I have been equally neglectful of the SCA Reference Desk, if not moreso.

But today I want to talk about Google Scholar Alerts. Google Alerts, you may know, are searches you can set up to email you (either individually or in a digest) when the search engine discovers a new page relevant to your search terms. It’s super great for staying on top of stuff.

I have two alerts set up for “Tang Dynasty” – one is a straight Google Alert and one is a Google Scholar alert. The Google Alert mostly pops on articles from Chinese news sources, and the content is rarely relevant to me – it lacks citations, and is often just a historic nod in a “this has been going on for this long”sort of way. Not the sort of thing you’d want to include in your reference list for documentation.

On the other hand, the Google Scholar alerts get me some really interesting stuff – some of it is modern (those historical nods again), but I get a fair bit of archeological articles. Today’s alert included an article about cultural exchange between China’s Tang Dynasty and the Sasanid Empire as seen in ceramics.

So how do you set up a Google Scholar alert? Super easy. But I’m going to let Richard Byrne do it, because he covers some other cool stuff Google Scholar can do to help you find and save articles.

Want to share this?

PDF vs EPUB for Comfortable Researching

I need to replace my Kindle.

It’s a first generation Kindle Fire which my husband bought for me for my birthday several years ago. I love it. I never thought I would like a Kindle, but I used my Fire all the time to read, watch Netflix, and even play the occasional stupid game. I even loaded PDFs for school onto it so I could do my readings on my lunch break without having to lug around a bunch of printed out PDFs.

The trouble with PDFs on a Kindle is that you have to move around the screen in order to read everything, especially if the text is formatted into columns.

After talking with Mistress Una the other night, I got the idea that it was probably possible to convert PDFs to EPUB, which is a much friendly format for e-readers. This would mean that you could read your journal articles and other PDFs (like the free MOMA books) in comfort wherever you read other things on your preferred e-reading device.

A quick Google search turned up a Digital Trends article, How to Convert a PDF file to EPUB, which offers a few different options. I played around with ePUBator on my phone, but if there is a way to tell it where to save the converted file for easy retrieval, I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ve used Calibre for other e-book management features, so I’ve got that flagged as the next one to try.

Want to share this?