East and Asian Cultures
Comparing Chinese Courtesans and Japanese Geishas
China and Japan are cultural powerhouses not only in East Asia but also undoubtedly across the entire word. Close similarities between the rich cultural heritages between the two Asian countries add flavor to their exclusive characteristics that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Some ancient legends explain the similarity witnessed between the cultures from a perspective that one begot the other; Japan from China (Tang para.2). However unverifiable that is, the Chinese female courtesans and Japanese Geishas provide a channel to identify how related the two cultures are in terms of practice and manifestations. Music, dance, art and several other traditional practices passed between generations characterize the Chinese Courtesans and Japanese Geishas as discussed below.
A movement of female arts performers with unique cultural bond passed and observed from one generation to the next thrived and established in china tracing back to the 2500s. A deep artistic tradition based on a ritual or religious-strict practice involving women from a young age formed the rich foundation of the courtesan movement. Entertainment theme of intent for the engagement of the artists dominated the initial foundations of the ritual movement until negative connotations and misuse of the culture emerged. Despite the fact that the name associated with the culture almost associates with the negative stereotype that affected the culture later, Yueji performers represented Chinese music, entertainment, poetry, and calligraphy (Iroke para.5). The Chinese courtesans became prominent cultural icons in the society and their performances were nearly entirely reserved for the powerful men and leaders in china. The notoriously exploitative regime in china for the female culture is perhaps the Ming Dynasty whose conservative outlook was contradicted by selfish rulers (Cass 12). Eventually, misuse of the culture through exploitation of the women performers became entrenched in the culture that prostitution and the culture represented a similar social vice. The authorities in China banned the culture and the art practices they observed in the society as a result of the social seriousness that prostitution presents to the Asian society.
Similar to the rich East Asia attachment to culture, the Japanese women art and entertainment ritual passed from one generation to the other is synonymous with the Japanese cultural prominence. Initially seen as a noble and honorable female participation to culture and entertainment, parents would encourage their young daughters to enroll to the movement. The Geishas acted as role models for the young Japanese women and girls who joined the culture as novices. Rituals and intense training in music, art and entertainment upholding high cultural standards attracted the attention of every person in the Japanese society. With special cultural attires designed for different classes of progression between the novices or the Maiko and for the Geishas it is possible to identify a rich cultural practice among the female Japanese artists in this culture. The Obi and the Kimono and their design details distinguishing the class and authority of the artists show a well-articulated culture richly entrenched in the culture.
Despite the fact that the two female cultures represent two distinct nationalities in the East Asia region, many striking similarities show the importance of culture in the region. Apart from being Asian in origin and expression, the art forms practiced by the cultures trace back to the oldest entertainment and ritual practices still in existence on the entire world (Brown and Iwasaki 3). The highly social organization of the culture presented an important role of the female artist in the society leading to the transformation of the entertainment attributes in East Asia since their establishment.
In a highly patriarchal society in which the cultures are practiced, the elevation of the status of the women dating as far as the Ming Dynasty was an indication of a positive future of gender parity. However, both societies developed negative stereotypes on the role of the artists, with the Yueji and the Geisha suddenly representing illegal sex industry. Exploitation of the artists by powerful political regimes and eventually leading to sexual activity in both societies painted the women artists as brothel players. Similarly, the negative public perception on the female artists in Japan and China has contributed to the low enrolment of girls into the practice of the culture. In view of the significance of low enrolment, for new young women into the female entertainment cultures, the decline of the two entertainment and cultural riches is predictable. The once attractive entertainment and cultural heritage of the women artists in East Asia therefore seems destined to a sudden death, despite the rich history that they represent (Kawaguchi 86).
Brown, Randle & Iwasaki, Mineko Geisha: A life, New York, NY: Atria Books, 2002. Print
Cass V. Baldwin Dangerous women: Warriors, grannies and Geishas of the Ming, Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 1999. Print
Iroke, Madama “Chinese Comparisons and Counterparts to Japanese Geisha,” last updated16 January 2012. Web HYPERLINK “http://irokehouse.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/chinese-comparisons-and-counterparts-to-japanese-geisha/” http://irokehouse.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/chinese-comparisons-and-counterparts-to-japanese-geisha/ (Accessed 30 April 2012)
Kawaguchi, Yoko Butterfly’s sisters: The Geisha in western culture, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010. Print
Tang, Petra “Comparing the Chinese and Japanese Cultures,” 8 July 2012. Web HYPERLINK “http://www.helium.com/items/1105658-comparing-the-chinese-and-japanese-cultures” http://www.helium.com/items/1105658-comparing-the-chinese-and-japanese-cultures (Accessed 30 April 2012)