Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

STYLE AND PARTS OF FEMALE DRESS. 37

though not concealing the baldness which often comes upon them even in middle age. This fillet is occasionally worked or adorned with pearls, a favorite ornament with the Chinese ladies. The women of Kiangsu wear a band of fur around the head, which relieves their colorless complexions. A substitute for bonnets is worn in Kiangsi, consisting of a flat piece of straw trimmed with a fringe of blue cloth. The hair of children is unbound, but girls more advanced allow the side locks to reach to the waist, and plait a tress down the neck; their coarse hair does not curl naturally, nor do they endeavor to form it into curls. False hair is worn by both sexes; and the men are particularly fond of eking out their queues to the fullest length. The dress of gentlewomen, like that of their husbands, is regulated by sumptuary laws, but none of them prevent it being as splendid as rich silks, gay colors, and beautiful embroidery can make it. The neck of the robe is protected by a stiff band, and the sleeves are large and long, just the contrary of the common style, which being short allows the free use and display of the well turned arm. The same embroidery allowed to the husband is worked upon the breast. No belt or girdle is seen, nor are stays used to compress the waist to its lasting injury. One of the prettiest parts of a Chinese lady’s dress is the petticoat, which appears about a foot below the upper robe covering the feet. Each side of the skirt is plaited about six times, and in front and rear are two pieces of buckram to which they are attached; both the plaits and front pieces are stiffened with wire and lining. Embroidery is worked upon the two pieces, and upon the plaits within and without in such a way that as the wearer steps, the action of the feet alternately opens and shuts them on each side, disclosing the part or the whole of two dif. ferent colored figures. The plaits are so contrived, that they are the same when seen in front or from behind, and the effect is more elegant when the colors are well contrasted. In order to eproduce this, the plaits close around the feet in just the contrary manner to the wide skirt of western ladies. Ornaments are less worn by the Chinese than other Asiatic nations. The men suspend a string of fragrant beads from the lapel of the jacket with the tobacco-pouch 3 or occasionally wear seal-rings, finger-rings, and armlets of stone or glass. - They are by law prohibited from carrying weapons of any sort.

The women wear bangles, bracelets, and ear-rings of glass, stone,
and metal; some of these appendages are regarded more as
amulets to ward off evil influences than mere ornaments. Feli-
citous charms are attached to the persons of children, consisting
of aromatic bags, old coins, and rings. The custom of wearing
long nails for which they have been celebrated is practised by
comparatively few ; and although a man or woman with these
appendages would not be deemed singular, it is not regarded as
in good taste by well bred persons; pedantic scholars wear them
more than other professions, perhaps in order to show that they
are above manual labor.
The practice of compressing the feet, so far as investigation
has gone, is more an inconvenient than a dangerous custom, for
among the many thousands of patients who have received aid in
the missionary hospitals, few or none have presented themselves
with ailments chargeable to this source. A difference of opinion
exists respecting its origin, some accounts stating that it arose
from a desire to pattern the club feet of a popular empress,
others that it gradually came into use from the great admiration
and attempt to imitate delicate feet, and others that it was im-
posed by the men to keep their wives from gadding; the most
probable accounts do not place its origin further back than A. D.
950. It is practised by all classes of society, except among the
Tartars, poor as well as rich (for none are so poor as not to wish
to be fashionable), and so habituated does one become to it after
a residence in the country, that a well-dressed Chinese female
with large feet seems denationalized. There is no certain age
at which the operation is commenced, but in families of easy
circumstances the bandages are put on as soon as the child is
well able to walk; otherwise, the feet are permitted to grow
until betrothment, or till seven or eight years old. The whole
operation is performed, and the shape maintained, by bandages,
which are never permanently removed or covered by stockings;
iron or wooden shoes are not used, the object being rather to
prevent the feet growing than to make them smaller.
A good account of the effects of this singular practice is given
in a paper contained in the Transactions of the Royal Society of
London, written by Dr. Cooper, detailing the appearances pre-
sented on dissection. The foot belonged to a person in low life;
it was 54 inches long, which is full eighteen lines over the most

MODE AND RESULTS OF COMPRESSING THE FEET. 39

fashionable size. The big toe was bent upward and backward on the foot, and

the second twisted
under it and across,
so that the extre-
mity reached the
inner edge of the
foot. The third
toe somewhat over-
lapped the second,
but lying less ob-
liquely, and reach-
ing to the first joint
of the great toe.
The ball of the Appearance of the bones of a foot when compressed.

great toe, much flattened, separated these two from the fourth and fifth toes. The fourth toe stretched obliquely inwards under the foot, but less so than the little toe, which passed under and nearly across the foot, and had been bound down so strongly as to bend the tarsal bone. The dorsum of the foot was much curved, and a deep fissure crossed the sole and separated the heel and little toe, as if the two ends of the foot had been forced together; this was filled for three inches with a very condensed cellular tissue; the instep was 3% inches high. The heel bone, which naturally forms a considerable angle with the ankle, was in a direct line with the leg-bones; and the heel itself was large and flat, covered with a peculiarly dense integument, and forming, with the end of the metatarsal bone of the great toe, and the two smallest toes bent under the sole, the three points of taction in walking. When the operation is begun earlier, and the bones are more flexible, four of the toes are bent under the foot, and only the big toe laid upon the top. The development of the muscles of the calf being checked, the leg tapers from the knee downwards, though there is no particular weakness in the limb. The appearance of the deformed member when uncovered is shocking, crushed out of all proportion and beauty, and covered with a wrinkled and lifeless skin like that of a washerwoman's hand daily immersed in soapsuds. It is somewhat remarkable how the circulation is kept up in the member without any pain or wasting away; for one would think that if any nutriment was conveyed to it, there would be a disposition to grow until maturity was attained, and consequently constant pain ensue ; or else that it would be destroyed or mortify for want of nourishment. The gait of these victims of fashion is like that exhibited when walking on the heels; and women walking alone, swing their arms and step quick to prevent themselves falling. When it is prac. ticable, elderly women avail themselves of an umbrella, or lean upon the shoulder of a lad or maid for support, which is literal

[graphic]

ly making a walking-stick of them. The pain is said to be se-

vere for about six weeks at first, and a recurrence now and then is felt in the sole ; but the evident freedom from distress exhibited in the little girls who are seen walking or playing in the streets, proves that the amount of suffering, and injurious effects upon life and health resulting from this strange fashion, are perhaps not so great as has been imagined. The case is different when the girl is not victimized until nearly grown. The toes are w then bent under, and the foot forced into the smallest compass; the agony arising from the constrained muscles and excoriated flesh is dread. ful, while too the shape of the member is, even in Chinese eyes, a burlesque upon the beautiful litFeet of Chinese Ladies. tleness so much desired. The opinion prevails abroad that only the daughters of the rich or noble pay this price to Dame Fashion. A greater proportion is indeed found among the higher classes, and, in the vicinity of Canton, the unfashionables form perhaps half of the whole; for those who dwell in boats, and all who in early life may have lived on the water, all those employed, or who wish to be, as maid-servants by foreigners, and slave-girls sold in infancy for domestics, are usually left in the happy, though lowlife freedom of nature. Foreigners, on their arrival at Canton, seeing so many women with natural feet on the boats and about the streets, often express their surprise, and wonder where the “little-footed celestials” they had heard of were, the only specimens they see

[graphic]

PREVALENCE OF THE PRACTICE. 41

being a few crones by the wayside mending clothes. The inland parts of the country show a different aspect. All the women seen by Mr. Stevens in Shantung, and all who came to the hospital at Chusan in 1841, to the number of 800 or 1000, had their feet more or less cramped; and some of them walked several miles to the hospital and home again the same day. Although the operation may be less painful than has been represented, and perhaps not so dangerous as compressing the waist, the people are so much accustomed to it, that most men would refuse to wed a woman, though they might take her as a concubine, whose feet were of the natural size. The shoes worn by those who have the kin lien, or “golden lilies,” are made of red silk, and prettily embroidered; but no one acquainted with Chinese society would say, “that if a lady ever breaks through the prohibition against displaying her person, she presents her feet as the surest darts with which a lover's heart can be assailed !” Shape of a lady's shoe.

Cosmetics are used by females to the serious injury of the skin. On grand occasions the face is entirely bedaubed with white paint, and rouge is added to the lips and cheeks, giving a singular starched appearance to the physiognomy. A girl thus beautified has no need of a fan to hide her blushes, for they cannot be seen through the paint, her eye being the only index of emotion. The eyebrows are blackened with charred sticks, and arched or narrowed to resemble a nascent willow leaf, or the moon when a day old. A belle is described as having cheeks like the almond flower, lips like a peach's bloom, waist as the willow leaf, eyes bright as dancing ripples in the sun, and footsteps like the lotus flower. Much time and care is bestowed, or said to be, by females upon their toilet, but if those in the upper classes have anything like the variety of domestic duties which their sisters in common life perform, they have little leisure left for superfluous adorning. If dramas are any index of Chinese manners and occupations, they do not convey the idea that most of the time of well bred or high born ladies is spent in idleness or dressing.

* Murray's China, Vol. II., page 266.

[graphic]
« EdellinenJatka »