Then, as now, if you asked about, you'd
find a Bird Concert somewhere nearby, a place where bird lovers
collected once each week in the early morning, with their feathered
friends. While their owners sipped a morning beverage, their
songbirds would put on an impromptu concert, enjoyed by all who
gathered to listen.
Ch'ang-an, the capital city, was
a rather big town of over one million people! The city was
designed like a checkerboard, with broad wide streets, and side
streets, and city blocks. There were 110 blocks, each like its own
village, with a marketplace and temples. Throughout the city,
residents and visitors could enjoy tea shops, cake shops, gem
dealers, pawnbrokers, street acrobats and storytellers, colorful
banners, lots of bazaars. It was a lively place.
A word about audiences: In ancient China, and
still true today much of the time, everyone attended art
performances. Being a social occasion as much as a theatrical
performance, people would wander in and out as the mood took them,
chit-chat or gossip softly, and bring their two year olds.
Households in the large capital city of Ch'ang-an
had baths, heaters, mechanical fans, fountains, ice-cooled rooms,
mirrors, musical instruments such as the harp, ceramics, spoons,
goblets of gold and silver. The rich were waited on by servants and
slaves. The pagoda look became popular during T'ang times. Homes of
the wealthy and of the nobles were very large, with several rooms,
built of wood and brick. Farmers homes were made of sun dried brick
and bamboo. They were very simple, one room homes.
Hair Styles, and Cosmetics:
Men had topknots.
They shaved their heads except for the hair right in the center of
the top of their head, which they let grow long. Then they wrapped
it up in a knot. This was called a topknot! They used gold and
decorated hair pins to keep them in place.
On their heads, women balanced jeweled crowns
with little jingling bells dangling from the edges. Women used
little make-up boxes that held a mirror, rouge, and lipstick.
Eyebrows were carefully designed. In T'ang times, they were shaped
like little mountains, like this ^. (Eyebrows have always been part
of ancient Chinese fashion. In 2c BCE, eyebrows had sharp, pointed
tops. In 2c A.D., eyebrows were gently curved.)
In T'ang times, shoes were really important.
They were a sign of status. Peasants wore straw sandals. Nobles wore
fine cloth slippers. Nobles wore turquoise colored features in fancy
hats, and silk robes with jade belts. Clothing was made of silk for
the rich, and ramie cloth for the poor (woven from a plant called
ramie, rough, coarse, used to make farmers clothes.)
They played board games such as
backgammon. Music, dancing, hunting with falcons, and archery were
all popular. They played a kind of football, and enjoyed polo which
had been introduced from India. They had national celebrations, such
as the Emperor's Birthday, which was enjoyed by rich and poor alike.
The days of human sacrifice
were long over, but honoring ones ancestors was still very
important. Family members were expected to help each other, and care
for each other. When a girl married, she went to live with her
Only boys could go to school. They did not have to go to school, but
it was free, and encouraged. Girls learned at home. Education was
very important. Teachers were one of the five objects of worship.
(The other four were heaven, earth, the emperor, and parents).
had been introduced in Han times. Buddhism arrived as an idea
from India, via the Silk Road. It really took hold during T'ang
was very strong, and so was Taoism.
Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism
were known in T'ang times as the Three
Still, if you were to ask someone in ancient China,
"What is the official religion of China?" - they probably
would not have mentioned Buddhism, Confucianism, or Taoism. They
would probably have said something like this: "The proper and
seasonable worship of the gods of the rivers and mountains, and wind
and moon, and of our noble ancestors."
Many of the celebrations
and festivals that honor these ancient gods are still
celebrated by the Chinese today. Honoring gods and ancestors was
very much a part of ancient Chinese daily life.
In spite of the wonderful Golden Age enjoyed
by the rich in the cities, most of the people in T'ang times were
farmers. For a while, their life was somewhat improved.
At least they owned the land! The early T'angs
distributed the land equally, to create a nation of free farmers.
Each farmer received one ch'ing of land, about 15 acres. (In later
years, this system of family farms broke down. Landlords and nobles
took back the land. China reverted to feudal times, where nobles
owned and peasants worked.)
They ate beans, turnips, barley cakes, melons,
peaches, bits of pork and chicken, plums, lots of fish, and drank
wine. In the north, still, they ate breads made of wheat. In the
south, still, they ate rice.
Although they worked hard, country people were
not unhappy. For the most part, they were not at war. They had
developed a culture rich with ancestor worship and festivals and
customs. They were simple people, who enjoyed simple pleasures. They
were richly aware of the many beauties of nature.
Make a Present of Sunshine
In olden times there was a peasant in the state of Song who wore
clothes woven with tangled hemp and barely made it through the
cold winter. When spring came he enjoyed the warmth of the sun
while working in the fields. He did not know that in this world
there are tall buildings and cozy, warm houses, and he knew
nothing about clothes with silk wadding or furs made from the
skins of foxes and raccoon dogs. The peasant turned to his wife
and said, "It is so warm under the sun. I don't think other
people know about this. If we present this to our king we are sure
to get a rich reward." Written by: Liezi
T'ang: Western T'ang
was peopled with nomads. The nomads did not grow food. They moved
from place to place, tending herds of horses, goats and sheep. Their
homes were huts on wagons on wheels, so they could move their homes
easily. Clothing was made of wool or animal skins. They ate milk and
meat. They were traders, and traded with wandering merchants
for other things they needed. Sometimes, they traded along the Silk