The Tang Dynasty is commonly known for its vibrant culture, especially when it comes to the arts, music, and fashion. One of the most iconic aspects of Tang women's fashion was their elaborate makeup styles. From brightly colored lips to elaborately decorated eyebrows, Tang women were not afraid to experiment with unique beauty trends. However, with a wide range of cosmetic methods and hues, identifying different makeup styles from this era can be quite challenging. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the most popular makeup trends of the Tang Dynasty and provide a beginner's guide to recognizing them.
The Tang Dynasty was the pinnacle of China's feudal civilization, characterized by southern and northern unification, vast territory, political stability, economic development, and flourishing education and culture. Trade and cultural exchanges with foreign countries provided a solid foundation for the development of its culture.
"At the sight of clouds, we cannot help but associate them with her glamorous attire. At the sight of flowers, we immediately think of her stunning beauty." - in the Tang Dynasty, women's makeup reached a peak in ancient Chinese history, rich and diverse in style.
In the early Tang Dynasty, politics was clean and society was stable, and women's makeup styles were slightly luxurious, but overall natural in appearance. Red makeup was not particularly gorgeous, eyebrows were mainly wide, hair was mostly high and erect, and there were few jewelry adornments. This period's makeup style conveyed female confidence.
During the prosperous period of the Tang Dynasty, the country's strength reached its zenith. Women's aesthetic preferences during this time tended towards plumpness and corpulence, emanating a strong sense of nobility. However, after the Anshi Rebellion, political decay set in, accompanied by constant strife and the decline of the country's strength. Despite this, various classes continued to indulge in extravagance, resulting in even more luxurious makeup styles for women in the middle and late Tang Dynasty.
01 Facial Makeup
The prevalent type of facial makeup in ancient Tang was the striking and vivid red makeup, which was popular among women from all social classes. In the Tang Dynasty, some beauties went as far as applying rouge all over their cheeks.
Numerous poets have depicted the beauty of Tang Dynasty's red makeup in their works.
When women sweated due to the heavy makeup and hot weather, their sweat-soaked handkerchiefs and washing water would all be stained red. Of course, different techniques used to apply the makeup created different effects.
The Jiu Yun makeup (酒晕妆), the most bold and dramatic type, involved applying thick rouge to the both sides of the cheeks after applying white powder.
The peach blossom makeup was light and lively as a peach blossom.
The Fei Xia makeup (飞霞妆) was more elegant than the peach blossom one, creating a delicate sense of blush.
In the Tang Dynasty, women pursued diversity and individuality. Apart from the above-mentioned types, there were also other styles of facial makeup, such as the Hu makeup (胡妆), Ti makeup (啼妆), tear makeup, and Xueyun makeup (血晕妆).
02 Eyebrow Makeup
The Tang Dynasty was the period with the most diverse eyebrow styles in Chinese history. The trend of long, short, curved, and thick eyebrows all coexisted during this period.
During emperor Xuanzong's time, there was a record called "Ten Eyebrow Paintings," which documented ten popular eyebrow styles. but it only represents a fraction of the various eyebrow styles.
Here are some common eyebrow makeup styles:
Willow Leaf-shaped Eyebrows: The eyebrows are drawn in the form of willow leaves and are also called willow eyebrows.
Moon-shaped Eyebrows: Slightly wider than willow eyebrows, they resemble the shape of a crescent moon. In Yan Liben's "Emperor Taizong Receiving the Tibetan Envoy," palace ladies all painted moon-shaped eyebrows.
Thick Eyebrows: This style values length, width, and thickness, making the eyebrows very striking.
Thin Eyebrows like Silkworms, Faraway Mountain Eyebrows, Qingdai Eyebrows: During the flourishing Tang Dynasty, thin, long and light-colored eyebrows were popular.
Eight Characters Eyebrows: This style became popular during the mid-to-late Tang Dynasty as part of the trend, which also included black lips and a hair twist. Compared with the eyebrows of the Han Dynasty, the Tang eight characters eyebrows are both wider and more curved.
03 Lip Makeup
During the Tang Dynasty, lipsticks had taken on specific shapes. The lip pigment at that time was a cylindrical object, which is not much different from modern lipsticks.
The colors of lipsticks were also very rich, including vermilion, and crimson. The shape of lip makeup was regarded as a cherry-shaped mouth as the best, appearing small and round. It reached its peak during the late Tang Dynasty.
04 Facial Adornments
During the Tang Dynasty, various facial adornments had become common among ordinary people. Women's facial adornments had different shapes and vivid colors, which was one of the most distinctive aspects of Tang women's makeup.
The forehead yellow makeup began in the Han Dynasty, became popular during the Sixteen Kingdoms period, and reached its heyday in the Sui and Tang Dynasties.
During the Tang Dynasty, a new style of forehead yellow makeup was developed, called Rui Huang Makeup (蕊黄妆). It paints flower images with yellow powder on the forehead, looking exceptionally gorgeous.
The slanting red usually depicts the temple area in the shape of a crescent moon or a scar. Sometimes, to create a sense of breakage, rouge is smudged into a bloodstain appearance. However, the popularity of slanting red disappeared after the late Tang Dynasty.
Flower headpieces usually look like small dots, which are simple, or they are made into various floral shapes using gold foil, fish gills, and bones. These flower headpieces are stuck on the forehead, resembling a fairy flower.
Mian Yan are usually painted on both sides of the dimple with rouge or pigments, appearing like small moles. After the prosperous Tang Dynasty, the styles of facial moles increased. Some were shaped like coins, others like apricots or flowers.
05 Skin Care
The Tang dynasty valued skin care very highly. Various skin care products were exquisitely made and refined: "Mian Zhi (面脂)," used to moisturize the skin; "Zao Dou (澡豆)," similar to modern soap, for washing the face; "Xiang Ze (香泽)," used for conditioning the hair.
In Du Fu's poem describe makeup products such as kou Zhi and Mian Yao, which were applied to the lips and face. These were similar to modern lip balms and moisturizers that protect skin and prevent chapping.
During the Tang dynasty, the emperor would often give his subordinates ointments on the day of the Winter Solstice to show his concern and care for them and display the imperial family's "grace."
As we scrutinize those beautiful female figurines and portraits in the museum, millennium-old beauties seem to come to life, bridging the gap between ancient and modern people.
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