Friday, December 6, 2013

China: Prostitutes & Poets

From The World of Chinese:
Prostitution is oft cited as the oldest of professions, but is it possible that it might just be the most noble as well? Today, we view prostitutes, typically, as women who engage in sexual activity for payment. However, back in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a modern man would be astounded by the brothels of the day and the women living in them; modern interpretations simply fail to grasp the complexity of the “prostitute” of yore. Our sexual time traveler would find an artistic trade that transcends the simple and tawdry exchange of sex for money.
Marriages were matters of social hierarchy, leaving endless scholars and aristocrats with marriages that lacked both the affection and communication that can be found on a deeper, more spiritual plane. Prostitutes were exceptions to the rule. Unlike the girls brought up in ordinary families who were deprived of education, prostitutes were taught to become—not merely entertaining performers—but the mental equals to aristocrats, scholars, government officials, and all manner of high society.
By the Qing Dynasty and right through to today, the noble art of prostitution has been in decline—making them little more than objects of men’s sexual desires. They are no longer seen as having great minds, being supreme dancers, pitch-perfect singers, or enchantresses who both write and are revered in the finest poetry.

From Cultural ChinaLiu Rushi - The Most Respectable Courtesan in Chinese History
Liu Rushi(1618-1664), originally named Yang Ai'er, was also known by her literary name "Yinglian" and "Hedong Jun". She was a famous courtesan in the late Ming dynasty and later became concubine of the celebrated poet Qian Qianyi.

Despite having a profession that most of society look down on, Liu Rushi was considered the most respectable prostitute in Chinese history. She showed exemplary values when faced with danger during times when she helped the country. During the Manchurian occupation, she tried to persuade her mate, who was then a respectable Confucian scholar, to commit suicide for the love of country. Unfortunately, the guy refused stating that the water in the middle of the river was too cold. Nevertheless, after her mate’s surrender, she was able to redeem herself from her profession when she was considered as a model of pure morals during the end of the Ming dynasty.
In addition, the Chinese beauty was also well versed in calligraphy, drawing, and writing poems.

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