The History Girls: CROSS YOUR LEGS AND HOPE TO DIE: What those effigies are really telling you by Elizabeth Chadwick

The History Girls: CROSS YOUR LEGS AND HOPE TO DIE: What those effigies are really telling you by Elizabeth Chadwick

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thedorkages:

Playing cards.

Yes, once again it’s time for one of those very satisfying stories that begins with “we don’t know exactly when.” We don’t know exactly when playing cards were invented. We know where, though. As always when it comes to “paper” and “inventions” in the same sentence, the answer is China.

The first definite, absolute, totally authenticated reference to cards that is for sure about cards is from the (Mongol) Yuan Dynasty. So late, I know, 1295! Except that the reference to cards is a pissy as hell judgment from “the Department of Punishments of the Secretariat” accusing two JERKS of printing cards. “Cards!” the Department of Punishment practically wails. “Cards! For fuck’s sake! They had woodblocks, they had paper, and then they tried to destroy them as though we were going to miss the fact that they were running a gambling den what with the thirty-six taels of paper cash they had stashed around the damn place! And then some asshole functionary pointed out that technically all the gambling cases we’d tried were for dice and ’[metal] money or goods’ and that we didn’t have precedent! Well, how do you like your precedent now, Mr. Nitpick? Served with a side of legal justice. Department of Punishments of the Secretariat out.”

From which we can decipher that a) cards existed prior to 1295 but b) not so much prior that the new Mongol overlords really knew what to do with them.

There are a bunch of unauthenticated references to playing cards predating 1295 in China, as you’d expect, which range from the “yeah that’s probably someone playing cards” to “wait, what the hell is ‘fishing for the giant sea turtle’”? The most frequently discussed is a game from the Tang Dynasty called ‘the game of leaves’ which may or may not have been partially a card game and which was almost definitely partially a dice game, and which, as far as scholar Andrew Lo could find out (I am extensively relying on him throughout the China section here), has rules that are some combination of

  1. craps,
  2. mancala, and just possibly
  3. Chutes and Ladders.

I swear to god I am not making this up.

Anyway, ‘fishing for the giant sea turtle’ is a variation of a popular drinking game from the Tang/Song Dynasties along the lines of the classic game King’s Cup. Depending on the card you draw, you drink according to different rules. The difficulty is that it’s unclear whether or not the Tang/Song Dynasty games had cards or jade plaques or wooden fish again I am not making this up, and in any case the cards were a lot more game-specific and don’t count as standardized playing cards even if they were paper. In the case of the giant sea turtle, the cards probably were wooden fish, because it was all themed on the turtle statue that sat at the top of the emperor’s court; when you aced your examinations you were said to be sitting on the head of the giant sea turtle. A sample card contained the following: “How did the giant from Elder Dragon Kingdom fish for the turtles then?/He used a rainbow for a long rod, and the crescent moon for a hook. [Instruction:] Please use fine wine to urge those who have passed the examinations to drink a full ten units.” It was called fishing for the giant sea turtle because you literally had to fish for the plaques from seven chi away, while getting steadily drunker. I think it should be clear to everyone at this point that in terms of having a good time, the Tang and Song Dynasties had this shit on lock.

And those fun images above on the left? Well, Mamluk Egypt and possibly India both thought this “playing with cards” thing sounded boss. Mamluk Egypt, with the characteristic restraint and simplicity with which it did everything, thought the Chinese didn’t really understand the whole concept of this block printing thing, because seriously what’s the point of having playing cards if you can see the designs on them? From Egypt, the cards made their way into Italy and Switzerland, where they proceeded to make Europe addicted to gambling.

Those Dark Ages. So full of boring farmers farming boringly.

Hello, friends! Thank you for sticking with me for the long, long radio silence, for which I sincerely apologize. Hopefully in the coming months I’m going to have a little more time to update. I love you all, particularly the very brave and very enthusiastic people who followed me during the four months of nothing. You’re my kind of gals.

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I’ve just started Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It is fascinating. I’m less than halfway through the first disc, and I’ve already learned so much!

The audiobook is read by Scott Brick, who is excellent.

From Goodreads: 

In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.

Find it at your local library.

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An Exorcism in Elizabethan London | History Today

An Exorcism in Elizabethan London | History Today

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Tang Dynasty (618-907) Bibliography

(Don’t mind the pic. We took our color schemes from ponies, because of reasons.)

Benn, C. (2010). China’s golden age: everyday life in the Tang dynasty. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004.
[Link]This was a great all-over source for me, especially since I didn’t want to just “do the outfits.” I would consider this a must-have for Tang Dynasty research.

Bonds, A. B. (2008). Beijing opera costumes: The visual communication of character and culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii.
[Link]This was interesting, but not super helpful for Tang. The appendix with garment diagrams, especially the pleating, was the only thing I used this for. It may be useful for other time periods, with the caveat that this is a modern stage interpretation of historic garments.

H. C. [user25056]. (2014, May 3.) How to wear a traditional Chinese garment called ‘Quixiong Ruqun’[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGSylLPJ42o
I’m not sure if I would have figured out how the skirt works if I hadn’t seen this video.

Johns, J. (4 June 2011). China’s disappearing clothing. We Drive East.  Retrieved from: https://wedriveeast.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/chinas-disappearing-clothing/
This blog of a Fullbright scholar is centered on the history of Chinese breast-binding, but as I can’t read Chinese, her summaries of Chinese sources describing the evolution of undergarment was invaluable.

Ling, S. (14 Dec 2012). More on the Hezi (Undergarment). Dressed up dreams. Retrieved from http://dressed-up-dreams.blogspot.com/2012/12/more-on-hezi-undergarment.html
More interesting information about the Hezi – take with a grain of salt.

Ling, S. (22 Nov 2012). (An extremely long post on) Tang costume history. Dressed up dreams. Retrieved from http://dressed-up-dreams.blogspot.com/2012/11/an-extremely-long-post-on-tang-costume.html
Overview of Tang Dynasty clothing. Not many sources cited.

Mei, H. (2011). Chinese clothing. New York: Cambridge University Press.
[Link]This is a pretty slim volume, and she takes a lot from 5000 Years. Still, the information is good, if brief.

Ministry of Culture, People’s Republic of China. (2003).Secrets of Women’s Underwear in Ancient China. ChinaCulture.org. Retrieved from http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_artqa/2006-08/04/content_84371_4.htm
I’m not sure what to think of these little articles – you get no sense of real authorship. Still, the information is in line with what I found elsewhere.

Ravenfea (18 Jun 2010). Ramie fabric – the new (old) linen? Ravenfea: Maker of various fabric things.Retrieved from http://raevenfea.com/learning/ramie-fabric-the-new-old-linen/
Overview of linen vs. ramie.

Shaorong, Y. (2004). Traditional Chinese clothing: Costumes, adornments and culture. San Francisco: Long River Press.
[Link]
This is even slimmer than Mei’s book, but it goes garment by garment, so it’s helpful regardless of time period.

Vainker, S. (2004). Chinese silk: A cultural history. Newark, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
[Link]This was an invaluable source for me when it came to materials – it has lots of amazing photos of extant fabrics, and some great discussion about what weaves, colors, and techniques were used.

Zhou, X. & Gao, C. (1987). 5000 Years of Chinese costume. Tsui-Yee Tang (Ed.) Hong Kong: China Books and Periodicals.
[Link]If I could only own one book of this list, 5000 Years would be it. It’s huge, it’s got lots of great reproduction diagrams of outfits along with period illustrations, and it covers pretty much everything. I focused on Tang, but it has sections for each time period. It can be spendy, but I had success with interlibrary-loan.

If you’re interested in my overview/construction notes – I’ve got them right here.

Want to share this?

Tang Dynasty (618-907) Bibliography

(Don’t mind the pic. We took our color schemes from ponies, because of reasons.)

Benn, C. (2010). China’s golden age: everyday life in the Tang dynasty. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004.
[Link]This was a great all-over source for me, especially since I didn’t want to just “do the outfits.” I would consider this a must-have for Tang Dynasty research.

Bonds, A. B. (2008). Beijing opera costumes: The visual communication of character and culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii.
[Link]This was interesting, but not super helpful for Tang. The appendix with garment diagrams, especially the pleating, was the only thing I used this for. It may be useful for other time periods, with the caveat that this is a modern stage interpretation of historic garments.

H. C. [user25056]. (2014, May 3.) How to wear a traditional Chinese garment called ‘Quixiong Ruqun’[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGSylLPJ42o
I’m not sure if I would have figured out how the skirt works if I hadn’t seen this video.

Johns, J. (4 June 2011). China’s disappearing clothing. We Drive East.  Retrieved from: https://wedriveeast.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/chinas-disappearing-clothing/
This blog of a Fullbright scholar is centered on the history of Chinese breast-binding, but as I can’t read Chinese, her summaries of Chinese sources describing the evolution of undergarment was invaluable.

Ling, S. (14 Dec 2012). More on the Hezi (Undergarment). Dressed up dreams. Retrieved from http://dressed-up-dreams.blogspot.com/2012/12/more-on-hezi-undergarment.html
More interesting information about the Hezi – take with a grain of salt.

Ling, S. (22 Nov 2012). (An extremely long post on) Tang costume history. Dressed up dreams. Retrieved from http://dressed-up-dreams.blogspot.com/2012/11/an-extremely-long-post-on-tang-costume.html
Overview of Tang Dynasty clothing. Not many sources cited.

Mei, H. (2011). Chinese clothing. New York: Cambridge University Press.
[Link]This is a pretty slim volume, and she takes a lot from 5000 Years. Still, the information is good, if brief.

Ministry of Culture, People’s Republic of China. (2003).Secrets of Women’s Underwear in Ancient China. ChinaCulture.org. Retrieved from http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_artqa/2006-08/04/content_84371_4.htm
I’m not sure what to think of these little articles – you get no sense of real authorship. Still, the information is in line with what I found elsewhere.

Ravenfea (18 Jun 2010). Ramie fabric – the new (old) linen? Ravenfea: Maker of various fabric things.Retrieved from http://raevenfea.com/learning/ramie-fabric-the-new-old-linen/
Overview of linen vs. ramie.

Shaorong, Y. (2004). Traditional Chinese clothing: Costumes, adornments and culture. San Francisco: Long River Press.
[Link]
This is even slimmer than Mei’s book, but it goes garment by garment, so it’s helpful regardless of time period.

Vainker, S. (2004). Chinese silk: A cultural history. Newark, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
[Link]This was an invaluable source for me when it came to materials – it has lots of amazing photos of extant fabrics, and some great discussion about what weaves, colors, and techniques were used.

Zhou, X. & Gao, C. (1987). 5000 Years of Chinese costume. Tsui-Yee Tang (Ed.) Hong Kong: China Books and Periodicals.
[Link]If I could only own one book of this list, 5000 Years would be it. It’s huge, it’s got lots of great reproduction diagrams of outfits along with period illustrations, and it covers pretty much everything. I focused on Tang, but it has sections for each time period. It can be spendy, but I had success with interlibrary-loan.

If you’re interested in my overview/construction notes – I’ve got them right here.

Want to share this?

Have a Kindle? FREE EBOOK: Edward Plantagenet, The English Justinian

Have a Kindle? FREE EBOOK: Edward Plantagenet, The English Justinian

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libralthinking:

beatonna:

So the University of Iowa Libraries has this DIY thing for the historian in all of us – transcribing old texts and handwritten letters for the public record.  It’s a group effort, and the sort of nitty gritty thing you’d get to do if you actually used your history degree for a thing related to it.

KATE BEATON + DIY HISTORY?!?

So, this is a thing. 🙂

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