The Search for the Beautiful Woman: A Cultural History of Japanese and Chinese Beauty

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Oct 16, 2012 - Social Science - 302 pages
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While a slender body is a prerequisite for beauty today, plump women were considered ideal in Tang Dynasty China and Heian-period Japan. Starting around the Southern Song period in China, bound feet symbolized the attractiveness of women. But in Japan, shaved eyebrows and blackened teeth long were markers of loveliness.

For centuries, Japanese culture was profoundly shaped by China, but in complex ways that are only now becoming apparent. In this first full comparative history of the subject, Cho Kyo explores changing standards of feminine beauty in China and Japan over the past two millennia. Drawing on a rich array of literary and artistic sources gathered over a decade of research, he considers which Chinese representations were rejected or accepted and transformed in Japan. He then traces the introduction of Western aesthetics into Japan starting in the Meiji era, leading to slowly developing but radical changes in representations of beauty. Through fiction, poetry, art, advertisements, and photographs, the author vividly demonstrates how criteria of beauty differ greatly by era and culture and how aesthetic sense changed in the course of extended cultural transformations that were influenced by both China and the West.


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Favored Appearances
Feared Beauties
The Rhetoric of Representation
Beauty as a Construct
Beauties in Chinese Verse and Prose Beauties in Japanese Literature
Resonance of Aesthetic Views
Edo Culture as a Filter
Until Naomi Was Born
Glossary of Selected Chinese and Japanese Names Titles and Terms
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (2012)

Cho Kyo is professor of comparative culture and literature in the School of Global Japanese Studies at Meiji University, Japan and a guest professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken). Among his recent publications are The Pitfall in Cultural Understanding (Ibunka rikai no otoshiana), Crossing the Border: A New Aspect of Modern Japanese Literature (Umi wo koeru Nihon bungaku), A Cultural History of Emotion in Chinese Literature and Culture (Jo no bunkashi), and Glimpses of East Asian Literature and Culture (Ajia wo yomu). He also serves as a regular book reviewer for the Mainichi.

Kyoko Iriye Selden (1936–2013) was coeditor of More Stories by Japanese Women Writers: An Anthology, the sequel to Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction. Her other translations included Honda Katsuichi’s Harukor: An Ainu Woman’s Tale, Kayano Shigeru’s Our Land Was a Forest, and The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She taught Japanese language at Cornell University until her retirement.

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