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How often did they...........?


Ian_Lee

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Are any fellow posters ever interested in how often people in dynastic China wash up?

I am quite interested in this topic. But the information is really hard to acquire. Let's take more recent period like Ming and Qing Dynasty as an example.

Bathing -- Circumstantial evidence suggests that it is not a daily habit (actually I believe daily bath had only been an American custom which proliferated around the world in recent decades). In the fancy villas built in Qing era that I visited around the Pearl River Delta, none of them got master suite. In fact, the tour guide never showed us where the bathroom is. When nature calls, you have to go out of the bedroom, then make right turn, and left turn, and right turn again,.....for the big job. For the small job, usually there is urine container (two kinds -- male & female) hidden underneath the bed.

And unlike Japanese movies which always showed bath scene, Chinese movies seldom depicted bath scene (except those X-rated). Mu guess is that they took bath in a big round big bucket and even the wealthy family would only take it on a weekly basis.

But it seems foot washing was a daily ritual since a lot of novels have narrated such act. But apparently bidet was not available and perfume was not as widely available as in France, so how could those ladies cover their odors? My guess is that since middle/upper class ladies seldom even walked out of their rooms, they didn't sweat at all despite without bathing for days!

Hair Washing -- Such job was even more infrequent during Ming & Qing Period. If you read 通勝 (a day-to-day guide book for the whole year written by fung shui master), the master lists such activity as important as shop opening or marriage. And if you adhere to what he says, usually there is only 1 or 2 days in the whole month suitable for washing your hair. In a Ming novel that I read, the author wrote that on certain spring day which weather is warm and sunny, the protagonist decided to do an important activity -- wash her hair. So it seems that the weather was a determining factor for washing hair. And most likely in the winter time they didn't do it at all.

Teeth Brushing -- Toothbrush is actually a new invention and didn't exist in dynastic China. In some Qing TV dramas, even the Emperor used his index finger to dip some powder (Anyone knows what it is?) and brush their teeth and rinse off. And of course they didn't floss.

Soap -- Did soap exist in dynastic China? I also feel puzzled. But at least it seems they didn't use it in washing clothes. Most likely they got rid of the dirt from the clothes by using a heavy stick to hit at the clothes during washing (Anybody knows how does it work?).

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skylee
(actually I believe daily bath had only been an American custom which proliferated around the world in recent decades)

I thought I read in "Shogun" that the european main characer learnt it from Japanese ... (vague memory)

even the Emperor used his index finger to dip some powder (Anyone knows what it is?) and brush their teeth and rinse off.

Salt.

Most likely they got rid of the dirt from the clothes by using a heavy stick to hit at the clothes during washing (Anybody knows how does it work?).

Indeed, how does beating cleans the clothes?

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Actually Japanese love bathing, especially group bathing.

Once I watched a TV drama about Nobunaga who just won a great victory from the battlefield. He and his fellow generals went to an onsen and took bath together. His soldiers who were wounded were also allowed to bathe in the onsen since they believed the mineral content in the spring water could help heal the wound fast.

But my impression is that the Japanese guys in the old time never washed their hair since the series never showed them do it.

And in the day of committing seppuku, those Japanese guys usually bathed first, changed into white clothes, made a poem and then cut their bellies open.

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During the last days of WWII, Japanese kamikaze pilots based in Taiwan would spend their last nights bathing in 北投 before embarking on their final mission.

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blue_fyre

anyone read The Chinese in America by Iris Chang? There is a part in the book that the Chinese miners as a group had less diseases and sickness when compared to their western counterparts. The reasons? The Chinese had better hygiene, including washing themselves more. Of course this was still back in the Gold Rush days. I think taking showers everyday is more of a modern thing.

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