THE ROMANCE OF THE WESTERN CHAMBER


The ideals of beauty have for the most part been derived from male conceptions. One such description comes from China. Though the text comes from a work of literature, called The Romance of the Western Chamber, by Shih-fu Wang (fl. 1295-1307) the content expresses a cultural ideal.


She treads the green moss with hesitation, not on account of her shoes, embroidered with the phoenix, being too small. Her embroidered shoes are only half a span long; her willowy waist, one hand could enfold. Overwhelmed with bashfulness, she refuses to raise her head, and rest it in the pillow embroidered with love-birds. Her golden hair-pins seem to be falling from her locks. The more disarranged her hair becomes, the more beautiful she appears! I will unbutton [her] robe and untie [her] silk girdle. I see her lovely, swelling breast. So exquisite and pure is her full figure, that I'd not know where her loveliness begins!


Source: Wang Shih-fu, The Romance of the Western Chamber, trans., S. I. Hsiung (New York, Columbia, Univeristy Press, 1968): 165-200.


/ Return to the Reader /