So many of us probably have fantasised about time-travelling to the past, the kind of lives we could lead, the people we could meet, and the sheer excitement of being the one who knows the future (provided that you study your history properly!).
Having done a quick research on Han dynasty, I’m going to entertain the thought of Barbie travelling to Han Dynasty, and getting a culture shock, or not.
Whatever Barbie stands for, women from Han Dynasty had more than outperformed her.
First shock–Barbie’s not special, since 2000 years ago.
In the 90s, Chinese archaeologists uncovered a tomb dating back to about 150 BCE (more than 2000 years ago!), and there were those naked figurines without arms. Like terracotta warriors, they were buried in tombs to represent the servants that the emperor will bring along with him to the other world after his death.
Similar to Barbie, they were fitted with mobile limbs (wooden arms that could move about, which also decomposed over the thousands of years), and similar to Barbie, they were dressed in all kinds of colourful fabrics.
Hopefully this provides Barbie with some sense of rootedness, or semblance of being part of a civilisation!
Then, Barbie’s going to think, well, those dresses are probably too conservative for her liking. She feels more liberated and empowered as a woman, dressed in sexy see-through lingerie.
And her Han dynasty ancestors could show her to the finest, lightest, most translucent silk fabric she will ever lay her eyes/hands/body/anything on.
So we know Han Dynasty formally established the Silk Road, but we really have no idea just how advanced their silk-making technique was! This robe, is 1.6m in length, and 1.95m wide.
Guess how heavy it is?
48 gram. Ok, it doesn’t mean anything to me. So I have done a quick google search, and it’s about 10 pieces of A4 printing paper! TEN PIECES OF A4 PRINTING PAPER!!
There was a story about such silk fabric during Tang dynasty that goes like this: An Arabic trader was distracted by a mole on the chest of a Chinese official, and remarked, “wow, you are wearing two layers of fabric yet I could see your mole so clearly!”. The Official laughed and revealed that he was wearing not two, but TEN layers of fabric AND the mole was still showing!! Must be some really dark mole…
Basically, there are speculations on how this robe was worn. Some says it was worn on top of the base layer an overcoat of sorts to add texture to the fabric. Others speculated that it could be the sexy lingerie that Barbie would die for. Either way, we have yet to be able to replicate such fabric with modern technology…
Finally, Barbie would either die of exhaustion for not being able to do anything except standing in those dresses, or sleep her time away! Han dynasty people kneeled on a daily/hourly basis cos chairs weren’t invented then (the Europeans invented stools, then chairs, and it was only until Tang dynasty that they had stools and chairs imported into China). AND, since Han people didn’t really wear pants, it’s really going to be wardrobe malfunction to stretch their legs out or cross their legs when seated in those robes. So everyone kneeled, be it during meals, or during meetings. This is still being practised in Japan.
So while it’s always a romantic thought to time travel back in time, to an exotic, glorious past like Han Dynasty, somehow…. I don’t think both Barbie or anyone of us would survive it. WE’RE TOO BACKWARD BY HAN DYNASTY’S STANDARD!
All these sound really trivial, but I love trivia.
Here’re a few less trivialised trivia:
- Han dynasty indirectly caused the fall of the Roman Empire. So the Huns (Mongolians and there about) were battling the Han troops and were sent westwards, so it’s like a butterfly effect whereby the Hans displaced the Huns, and the Huns displaced other tribes and so on and so forth and started the huge migration into Europe in the first CE (the entire thing is known as the Migration Period). So all these eventually lead to the fall of Rome. Yes, China and Europe had been very connected…. since 2000 years ago!
- Silk was the most sought-after commodity in Egypt, Greece and especially in Rome! It was really THAT important! Nobody knew how to produce silk back in those days, so while China had monopoly over silk, Persia had monopoly over the route to Rome, and they charged hefty amount for passing through their territory. That sparked off constant battles between the two. It was only 300 years after Han dynasty that Europe finally managed to get hold of the secrets to silk production.
- There wasn’t just one type of Silk. It was divided into more than 10 different types of fabrics based on the different weaving techniques and production techniques. The lightest robe in the world, as seen in the example above, was just one of the types. To survive 2,000 years despite it being such a thin fabric, is really quite a feat.
- Yellow was not the colour for emperors during Han Dynasty. So we always assumed yellow was the reserved colour for emperors. But it was not so until the Tang dynasty. Different dynasties and emperors had different colours for the rulers based on their divinity readings. By and large, Black was the colour for elites in those days. Guess we have just come a full circle back to black today!
That’s all my mind can take for today. #hanfugirl sleeps, without the world’s finest, lightest and possibly oldest silk lingerie.