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#1 kaiselin

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 08:18 AM

I would like to start a thread or better yet suggest starting a sub forum on the traditional arts that women did.
Embroidery, Weaving, Painting, Poetry, Writing , Paper cutting, and some of the other folk crafts that women were allowed to express themselves.

To start off this thread, I found this site I would like to share with everyone, that looks like it has a wealth of information on some of the arts made by woman's hands.
I have not yet had the chance to read the the full article but think that it is a great resource.

http://www.columbia...._Paper__pdf.pdf

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#2 Liu

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 06:08 PM

I would like to start a thread or better yet suggest starting a sub forum on the traditional arts that women did.
Embroidery, Weaving, Painting, Poetry, Writing , Paper cutting, and some of the other folk crafts that women were allowed to express themselves.

This is a nice idea kaiselin, but I feel a little confused because in my point of view, Arts cannot be categorized in such a way... This is not easy to explain, but what is the matter if the work of art has been done by a man or a woman ? This is the result of the work that is important... It would be a bad world if there were painting exhibitions for female painters only, or poetry books from male poets only.
I just want to say that the artistic world has no sex, and creativity belongs to everybody.
I hope you understand what I mean...;)

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#3 kaiselin

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 08:24 PM

Yes I do understand what you mean, I see you point, but I am not sure I totally agree with you. Women's art especially in China is not concidered important in a scholarly way. It was important for young girls to master the womanly arts needed to be good wives, and to make sure that their husband and children worn nice clothing. But this sometimes incredibly beautiful work did not get the recognition that it should have. If these arts received the same acknowledgement as the scholarly arts were, then I would agree with you. I am not trying to separate but to bring forth the awareness of these arts. If a man was known as a master of any of these, he should receive the accolade as well.

Embroidery in particular tends to be a woman's art.
One of the things that I had in mind was to start making a list of embroidery stitches used.
The forbidden stitch for instance is thought to be what is known in the west as the French Knot. The satin stitch , seed stitch, and split stitch are all ones that I have seen mentioned that have been used in Chinese embroidery. What are the Chinese names for them. What other stitches are there that I might know that I could add to my own stitching knowledge.

I also saw a show on CCTV9 about a Chinese Minority that the women had their own secret writing. The characters were incorporated into the designs of their weaving patterns and their embroidery so that they could pass messages amongst themselves. I find that very interesting and would like to learn more about that.

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#4 Liu

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 10:20 AM

I understand better your idea now. These hand-made traditional arts were/are a way for chinese women to increase their social position, that's it ?
I knew about these women who were communicating through their embroidery, but I cannot remember where I read that information :( ...
I am a fervent admirer of chinese ethnic embroideries, clothing and jewels...
Looking forward any information about it...
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#5 kaiselin

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Posted 10 June 2007 - 11:56 AM

I understand better your idea now. These hand-made traditional arts were/are a way for Chinese women to increase their social position, that's it ?

Yes that is closer to what I had in mind.
As early as young girls could sew or weave they were taught their livelihood. Having a good portfolio was essensual so that their artistic ability could be used as part of the bargaining chip when their parents tried to find them a suitable mate.



I knew about these women who were communicating through their embroidery, but I cannot remember where I read that information :( ...
I am a fervent admirer of Chinese ethnic embroideries, clothing and jewels...
Looking forward any information about it...

The show on CCTV9 was one that would focus on the many different ethnic groups in China to heighten awareness of them. In this one show they were discussing the woman's secret writing. If I remember correctly they were from around Yunnan.

The show mentioned that this group was not the only one that had their own writing.
It was mentioned that the modern Korean writing was strongly based on their own woman's secret writing. One of the simplified modern Japanese styles of writing was partially based on their women's writing.

Before I saw that show, I had noticed on many occasions over the years, that ethnic clothing and embroidery borders looked like some sort of writing, but I just thought it was my overly active imagination.

I did note that the style shown was very simple and would be easily translated into a woven form, unlike Chinese characters written with a brush that allow for more complexity.

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#6 Mok

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 03:04 AM

Hi ladies

Rest assured that I am doing my best to source around for material on Chinese arts, whether done by men or women.

Kaiselin, because women's achievements were not considered important enough to record, what is left us are only tangible, such as embroidery styles and sewing styles, which to some extent still survives in China (especially amongst the rural or tribal peoples).

So far I've yet to see any revival of interest in women's crafts in China, which means that the very source of such material is lying stagnant for now. I'm sorry to say that despite being a proud Chinese in every other area, "women's skills" are something I never picked up, because my formative years were spent in academic pursuits, which is what modern Chinese parents think will equip their child to survive.

As such, I'm terrible with my hands and I can hardly mend a button to save my life (still get Mom to do that), but hey, I earn a good living and bring home the rice, so... :D

Sorry for the digression...I promise you ladies I'll find something in time for the June newsletter. However, I don't think a subforum can be justified until there is sufficient material or interest. We'll play it by ear, eh? ;)

Cheers,

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#7 kaiselin

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 08:56 AM

Hi ladies

Rest assured that I am doing my best to source around for material on Chinese arts, whether done by men or women.

Kaiselin, because women's achievements were not considered important enough to record, what is left us are only tangible, such as embroidery styles and sewing styles, which to some extent still survives in China (especially amongst the rural or tribal peoples).

So far I've yet to see any revival of interest in women's crafts in China, which means that the very source of such material is lying stagnant for now. I'm sorry to say that despite being a proud Chinese in every other area, "women's skills" are something I never picked up, because my formative years were spent in academic pursuits, which is what modern Chinese parents think will equip their child to survive.

As such, I'm terrible with my hands and I can hardly mend a button to save my life (still get Mom to do that), but hey, I earn a good living and bring home the rice, so... :D



I have always been good with my hands, Art, embroidery and sewing was a natural for me maybe because I am right brained.
I never was attracted to or learned any of the skills necessary for even a clerical job.
I just learned to type three years ago, so I could use the computer.
There were no computers when I grew up.
I did not want to become a secretary, so I avoided all things that might have funneled me into an office.
Who knew typing would become so important in the modern world?

Sorry for the digression...I promise you ladies I'll find something in time for the June newsletter. However, I don't think a subforum can be justified until there is sufficient material or interest. We'll play it by ear, eh? ;)



Play it by ear? I'm good at that,

I found some names of stitches used in China a couple of years ago, I will see if I can find my notes.
I also found some embroidery work that I think is from a southern Chinese area, I will look thru it and see if I can find anything that looks like it might be an example of women's writing.
Being right brained, I also do a lot of stuff backwards from everyone else, but maybe this will help someone to then identify the ethnic style.
From that, we might be able to focus in on the Ethnic group/s that were mentioned as having women's writing.

Edited by kaiselin, 14 June 2007 - 09:01 AM.

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#8 Mok

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 10:07 AM

I found some names of stitches used in China a couple of years ago, I will see if I can find my notes.
I also found some embroidery work that I think is from a southern Chinese area, I will look thru it and see if I can find anything that looks like it might be an example of women's writing.
Being right brained, I also do a lot of stuff backwards from everyone else, but maybe this will help someone to then identify the ethnic style.
From that, we might be able to focus in on the Ethnic group/s that were mentioned as having women's writing.


I have read of women having their own secret language of communication, but not the writing... :g:

I'll look into that.
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#9 kaiselin

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 09:41 PM

Did some searching and found this:

One day in the 1960s, an old woman fainted in a rural Chinese train station. When police searched her belongings in an effort to identify her, they came across papers with what looked to be a secret code written on them. This being the height of the Cultural Revolution, the woman was arrested and detained on suspicion of being a spy. The scholars who came to decipher the code realized almost at once that this was not something related to international intrigue. Rather, it was a written language used solely by women and it had been kept a “secret” from men for a thousand years. Those scholars were promptly sent to labor camp.
This secret script is called Nushu, literally meaning women’s writing. Its exact origin is unknown, but has thought to have begun in the tenth century, and is often attributed to a royal concubine in the Song Dynasty (920-1279), named Hu Yuxiu. It is said that she was chosen because of her intelligence, but was completely ignored by the emperor. In her loneliness, she devised a way to write home secretly to her family about her suffering. Her letter sets the tone for most nushu writings, to share of the pains and sufferings of the life as a woman in feudal China. This is aptly expressed in the Song of Female Writing:
For all our live we suffer and bend,
No one has showed us any sympathy.
Only through female writing
Can our pain come out from the beginning.
Nushu was distributed only within southern China, in southeastern Hunan province, in an area roughly 1000 square miles. The remote region is very fertile and surrounded by mountains. It is home to two ethnic groups who have enjoyed peaceful coexistence: the indigenous Yao who dwell in the mountains, and the Han who live in the lowlands. With the colonization of the area in the sixth century by the Han peoples, there was a cultural fusion of customs and traditions. Of the common practices, divisions of labor were very clear: male members of the family tended to the fields, while the female members were confined to the home to perform the domestic duties. In fact, a bride often returned to her natal village, until the birth of her first child when she would be removed permanently. During this time, she would occasionally visit her husband.
Other shared customs included “age-mate” relationships, creating sworn sisterhoods and brotherhoods. These relationships were based not only on proximity, but also upon auspicious astrology, numerology and even matching the size and shape of the young “sisters” feet. They would go to festivals together, and were often closer to one another than to their blood-related sisters.
Nushu is inexorably linked with foot binding. It is thought that as early as the Han dynasty (25 AD), women were binding their feet. Its origins, like nushu, are also unknown, but it is believed that this practice also came from the imperial courts. The long-established tradition dictated that foot binding begin between the third and fourth years of a daughter’s life. It was an excruciating process in which the bones of the toes and foot were broken and remolded into the shape of a “golden lily,” ideally no longer than three inches long.
Before marriage, the sworn sisters would meet at one of the sister’s homes, in a private space that excluded men, in the sewing room (often located upstairs). They would sing, tell stories, embroider and sew. They worked harmoniously together by sharing, everything from patterns and cloth, to looms and embroidery thread. It was in these sisterhoods that the young women grew up together, initially offering support to one another during foot binding, but later learning the domestic ways of life and nushu from their mothers or aunts.
In feudal China, women were thought of as a monetary nuisance to their families, thus disposable. Foot binding worked to isolate women be taking away their mobility. They were also forbidden from attending school, so were vastly illiterate. The standard written Chinese language is logographic, which means characters used represent a word or part of a word. There exist roughly 50,000 Chinese characters which have a bold, block-like quality to them. Nushu, on the other hand, is a syllabic representation of the local dialect, not dissimilar to English. Scholars have identified between 1000 and 1500 nushu “characters” or sounds. Nushu is marked by its thin, wispy, rhombic and delicate stokes.
Young women first learned simple nursery rhymes and songs, and then would learn how to form the written words in the songs. From this rudimentary beginning, women would slowly advance to a point where they would improvise on known songs and then on to express their thoughts through verse or writing of original songs.
To prevent their nushu from falling into the hands of men, these Chinese women would embroider their thoughts and messages onto handkerchiefs, weave them into clothing, and paint them onto paper fans that they would send by female messenger to their sworn sisters and families in other villages. A nushu letter that had been delivered, read or even touched by a man was considered to be vulgar and improper.
At the funeral of a woman literate in nushu, her sworn sisters were responsible to burn all of her written words and the items containing nushu that she had received during her lifetime. This not only protected the script but was also said to send the words to her in her afterlife to keep her entertained, comforted and serve as a reminder of those who had loved her in her previous life.
Another nushu tradition was if a sworn sister was to marry, one of her other sworn sisters was to make a san zhao shu (letter after three days) to be delivered three days after the ceremony. In it, well wishes for a long, happy marriage, comments on her virtues and reprimands for breaking her “sisterhood” vows were written. These letters became a treasured part of the bride’s dowry offering solace once she had left her natal village. The life that awaited her at her husband and in-laws’ home was hard and difficult. Frequently, mother-in-laws would work their new daughters to the bone, while teasing and bullying them incessantly. Even when the woman gave the family children, they would often be sickly. Many children died at an early age. If this was not hard enough, these women would no longer be able to sing, and work with their sworn sisters. Many would be prohibited from attending festivals with them as well. It can be assumed that origin of nushu came from the overwhelming desire to express their feelings to one another and find and way to communicate despite the distances.
This secret script was known, used and passed down only by and among women for centuries until the mid-twentieth century. Since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s, women now have deserved respect and standing in China, the opportunity for formal education. While some may dispute these successes, there is no longer the need for nushu. The last known inheritress of women’s writing died in 2004. None of her children or grandchildren learned the language. Since her death and the impeding globalization of China’s rich culture, the archive keepers in Hunan province backed by government authorities, have stepped up their efforts to preserve this hundreds of years old tradition.
http://www.netscape..../...&frame=true

There is also a book out about Nushu by by Lisa See "Snowflower and the Secrest Fan"


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#10 Mok

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 09:49 PM

Yeah, this is Nushi alright. I don't recall either of my grandmothers mentioning this, so perhaps by their time, education had already been Westernised. My maternal grandmother attended a convent school and her education was no different from a French, Italian or English Catholic girl's, and my paternal grandmother attended a Chinese all-girls school...

However, Alma Alexander has made use of Nushi in her fantasy fiction books, calling it Jinshei. Although it is set in a loosely-veiled fantasy land modelled on China, it is nevertheless a good introduction to this intriguing and almost-forgotten side of Chinese history.
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#11 Mok

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 09:53 PM

Other shared customs included “age-mate” relationships, creating sworn sisterhoods and brotherhoods. These relationships were based not only on proximity, but also upon auspicious astrology, numerology and even matching the size and shape of the young “sisters” feet. They would go to festivals together, and were often closer to one another than to their blood-related sisters.


Ah, this is one custom, at least, that hasn't died out. My own sworn brother and sworn sister are indeed as close as my own blood kin. :)
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#12 kaiselin

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 11:26 PM

Ah, this is one custom, at least, that hasn't died out. My own sworn brother and sworn sister are indeed as close as my own blood kin. :)


That is very interesting.
Were they picked in the traditional way or were they just very good friends that you decided to call your sworn brother and sister?

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#13 Mok

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Posted 18 June 2007 - 11:34 PM

A mixture of both, actually. Most of us Chinese address older friends with an honourific "jie" for elder sister and "ge" for elder brother, or "mei" for younger sister and "di" for younger brother. That is informal and you will find that used very often in everyday life.

However, when a very strong bond exists between two friends, they might decide to take a "vow" of sworn brotherhood or sisterhood. ;)
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#14 kaiselin

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 08:19 AM

A mixture of both, actually. Most of us Chinese address older friends with an honourific "jie" for elder sister and "ge" for elder brother, or "mei" for younger sister and "di" for younger brother. That is informal and you will find that used very often in everyday life.

However, when a very strong bond exists between two friends, they might decide to take a "vow" of sworn brotherhood or sisterhood. ;)

So that relationship you have with your sworn sister is really based on your friendship and was your decision, and not a decision by your parents after studying all the proper aspects ?That would be exactly like mine, we have been thru some very difficult times and have always helped each other out.
From what I read, I gathered that the charts and aspects that the parents looked at when picking a Sworn sister were very similar to the way they would use as when finding the correct husband.
You are just carrying on the traditional usage of the name.( which is still an honorable thing), but it is more like what we used to call a "blood brother". The ceremony consisted of both friends cutting themselves and letting their blood mingle so that they could say their blood was the same, a practice that now a days should not be carried out in the literal sense because of the dangers of HIV.

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#15 Mok

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 08:42 AM

So that relationship you have with your sworn sister is really based on your friendship and was your decision, and not a decision by your parents after studying all the proper aspects?That would be exactly like mine, we have been thru some very difficult times and have always helped each other out.


From what I read, I gathered that the charts and aspects that the parents looked at when picking a Sworn sister were very similar to the way they would use as when finding the correct husband.
You are just carrying on the traditional usage of the name.( which is still an honorable thing), but it is more like what we used to call a "blood brother". The ceremony consisted of both friends cutting themselves and letting their blood mingle so that they could say their blood was the same, a practice that now a days should not be carried out in the literal sense because of the dangers of HIV.


It's sworn brother. ;) He's Caucasian, a fair bit older than I and a thoroughbred Southerner - I will be the first to admit that we are a motley pair.

There is a fine line between "sworn" (yi) and "god" (kai) siblings in Chinese tradition. The former is a formal oath undertaken by two adult individuals (though some are much younger when they take the oath), independent of and parental influence or influence. A good example in Chinese popular fiction would be that of Tolui (Genghis Khan's 4th son) and Guo Jing (fictional character) becoming "anda", the Mongolian term for sworn brothers. According to the story, they did so of their own accord.

As part of the oath, blood may or may not be mixed. I am only familiar with the blood-mingling tradition as an aspect of the southern triads in the later Qing dynasty, but I can't speak of earlier eras as I am not familiar with that.

As for "godsiblings", it would be one's parents who have agreed to "kai" a boy or girl, and hence he or she becomes your godsibling by default, and they would be considered to be part of the family. However, unless you become particularly close to a "kai" sibling, it is most likely that the relationship will only exist because of their relation to your parent.

I have no "kai" siblings, by the way. Just "yi" ones. ;)
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