The Han Dynasty was the longest feudal dynasty in ancient China after the great unification of the Qin Dynasty.
More than four hundred years of the Han Dynasty laid a solid foundation for Han, Hanzi, and Han culture. The same is naturally true in traditional Chinese makeup history.
Overall, the core ideas that influenced women's aesthetics during the Han Dynasty were the ideas of Taoism and New Confucianism. The former had the greatest impact on the early and mid-Han Dynasty.
The policy of "Recover from a Social Upheaval and Restore Production and Develop" was implemented by the rulers in the early Han Dynasty. Taoism's "Huang–Lao political ideology" responded to this social demand.
Focused on the development of natural and "Wu Is the Origin ideas", while advocating an open, positive atmosphere, had a profound impact on the aesthetics of female makeup in this period.
01 Han Dynasty Makeup powder
Compared with the pre-Qin dynasty, makeup powder in the Han dynasty had a great development.
The powder for the face was based on rice powder, and with the rise of alchemy in the Qin and Han dynasties and the improvement of smelting technology in the Han dynasty, lead powder appeared and became popular as a cosmetic product. As a result, a new word "Qian Hua (铅华)" was born in Chinese literature.
In language and writing, a new word is often born with the emergence of a new concept or a new thing. The widespread use of the word "Qian Hua" in the literary works of the Han and Wei dynasties was no accident, but a reflection of the social existence of lead powder.
02 Make-up in the Han Dynasty
The most celebrated advancement in Han Dynasty cosmetics is the introduction of the Safflower rouge.
Before the Han Dynasty, rouge is mainly represented by cinnabar mineral pigment production, bright colors but toxic.
And the introduction of Safflower flowers, let the production of rouge from the limitations of mineral pigments, and changed to plant pigments.
And Safflower has a more intense and vivid color than other plants that can be used to extract the red pigment.
It was brought back to China from Yanzhi Mountain (焉支山) by Zhang Qian when he was on a mission to the West during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. This is also the name origin of Yanzhi (胭脂).
Although the Han dynasty makeup compared to the pre-Qin dynasty has been a significant development, but in general, makeup finishing overall tends to be "simple and plain", "fresh and elegant", focusing on the embodiment of a woman's true beauty.
It reflects that Chinese ancient women pay much attention to the maintenance of their inner self.
03 Skincare and Treatment Products
In ancient China, although the makeup was not too colorful, the skincare products were very well developed.
Facial cleansing, hair washing, hair moisturizing, hair blacking, lip balm, body lotion, and hand lotion, most of the skincare formulas in the ancient Chinese classic medical books can be found.
The oldest discovery of such medical prescriptions is from the Mawangdui Han tomb silk book "Wushi'er Bingfang", while the same period "Shennong Ben Cao Jing" also recorded a lot of related content.
Chinese medicine focuses on the cultivation of the internal of the body and the harmony with the external world, making the beauty of ancient Chinese women is a kind of rely on the inner quality, rather than relying on the external work of grooming.
In the tomb of Xin Zhui, the owner of Mawangdui Han Tomb No. 1, two dressing boxes were unearthed, in which a total of nine types of makeup were placed, and more than ten types of dressing utensils.
04 Eyebrow Painting Tools in the Han Dynasty
In terms of eyebrow painting supplies, the Han Dynasty was mainly dominated by Shi Dai (石黛), which was made of natural graphite for painting eyebrows.
One is to rub a thin wooden stick on the block of graphite to let the graphite powder fully adhere to the stick, and then it can be used to paint eyebrows.
The second method involves grinding Shi Dai on special inkstones to make an ink slurry and then using a brush to trace on the eyebrows.
05 Han Dynasty Eyebrow Shape
The Yuan Shan eyebrow (远山眉) is the most classic shape of the early Han Dynasty, a shape that preserves the natural peak of the eyebrow.
Yuan Shan eyebrow is very common in the Han figurines and murals excavated during the Han Dynasty.
In the Western Han Dynasty, women were fond of removing their eyebrow peaks and making them into curved E eyebrows (蛾眉).
The E eyebrows have been present in ancient Chinese women's eyebrow makeup in a long history.
Chang eyebrows (长眉), Guang eyebrows (广眉), and Kuo eyebrows (阔眉) also appear in many literary works and excavated artifacts from the Han Dynasty.
The wooden figurines excavated from the Mawangdui Han tomb have long, ink-colored eyebrows.
The "Er Yi Shi Lu" contains a description of the "Ba Zi Eyebrows (八字眉)", a kind of eyebrow shape that highlights the delicate and weak posture of women by depicting a slightly sad makeup, which became popular in the late Western Han Dynasty and spread widely among women in the Eastern Han Dynasty, introducing ancient Chinese female aesthetics to another aesthetic realm.
As for the Han Dynasty's classic makeup, "Zhao Feiyan Wai Zhuan" has a record of "Yong Lai makeup (慵来妆)", thinly applied powder, lightly painted eyebrows, sideburns fluffy and slightly curly, in a lazy state to show a natural flirtatious and sexy, is also a classic description of the beauty of the ancient embodiment of women's light makeup.
Reference content selected from "The Beauty of Chinese Makeup (中国妆容之美)"
More about the makeup of different dynasties in ancient China:
Do they still do these type of makeup? Handmade in those pretty small jar?