Saturday, January 17, 2015

Onward and Upward with the Arts

Costumes from Wu Meiniang Chuanqi (The Legend of Wu Meiniang), via Dianyingwang Dingding.
Fans of Chinese historical TV drama late last year were somewhat startled by certain aspects of The Legend of Wu Meiniang, a bio series on the empress Wu Zetian (or emperor, properly speaking, since she was the only woman in Chinese history to rule in her own right, in the early height of the Tang dynasty from 690 to 705), in particular the dedication paid to authentic period costuming, since few were acquainted with some the facts of court dress in the imperial capital of Chang'an during the 7th and 8th centuries, which had not previously been reflected in the television serials of the People's Republic.

Apparently they really weren't making it up:
The most beautiful dress in China is called Semi-exposed Chest Dress, which is an imperial Costume. In the Tang Dynasty, only imperial women can wear this dress, like Yang Guifei who is one of top four beauties is particularly wearing this dress to please the emperor. The Semi-exposed Chest Dress is similar to the modern western dresses evening dress. Most of this dress has low collar or no collar. They can expose a part of the chest, which can show woman’s unique beauty. Semi-exposed Chest Dress is characterized by high waist, generally above the waist, which shows slender body of women. Tang dresses have many colors, like red, purple, yellow; especially the red dress is the most popular. (Legend China)
Wu Zetian in a clearly inauthentic Qing-dynasty image (18th century) in the British Museum, via Wikipedia. Though as far as authenticity goes, she was 66 when she started reigning and kept the throne until she died at 81, so she cannot have looked much like the actress Fan Bingbing at the time.
It quickly became the most popular drama on the air, but was hurriedly withdrawn at the end of December for a few days and reappeared in January in a somewhat different form, edited in such a way as to show a bit less of woman's unique beauty, with many long shots and full-face closeups, the authorities evidently feeling the Chinese people were not ready for the Semi-Exposed Chest Dress, although they have plainly been ready for it for about 1300 years. Apparently arousing great hilarity on the Chinese Interboobz, where snark, I'm glad to be informed, is not unknown. I should add that the re-editing seems not to have had any affect on its popularity.

Great video at BBC, which is also my source for the image below.

Fan Bingbing milking the dialogue chewing the scenery in the title role.

No comments:

Post a Comment