Grace Elizabeth and Anok Yai By Nick Knight For Vogue Japan January 2020
Hello! I was wondering if I could ask you a question about something I noticed in post 136427994491 (and in tradition Chinese photography in general). I've noticed that there are sometimes a red marking on a women's forehead. Do these markings mean anything? I'm particularly curious about the one that looks like a flower and the ones that are a dot
Hi, of course I’m happy to answer your question!
The forehead markings are called “huadian/花鈿", and they are a purely ornamental type of accessory that was most popular during the Tang Dynasty. Huadian came in a variety of colors (red, green, yellow - but mostly red), shapes (flowers/petals, animals - birds/fish, etc.), and materials (paint, paper, gold, pearls, petals, fish bones, seashells, feathers, etc.). Nowadays it is usually painted on/a temporary tattoo. Fouryearsofshades has a write-up on huadian here. Below - historical huadian:
Huadian can be worn on the cheeks, as seen in the two left pictures in the 2nd row above - these are called mianye/面靥 or xiaoye/笑靥. They usually took the form of a dimple about one centimeter from each side of the lips, and came in a variety of shapes, including coins, peaches, birds, and flowers.
There is a legend about the origin of huadian, recounted by Hua Mei in the book Chinese Clothing (pdf):
“The Huadian or forehead decoration was said to have originated in the South Dynasty, when the Shouyang Princess was taking a walk in the palace in early spring and a light breeze brought a plum blossom onto her forehead. The plum blossom for some reason could not be washed off or removed in any way. Fortunately, it looked beautiful on her, and all of a sudden became all the rage among the girls of the commoners. It is therefore called the “Shouyang makeup” or the “plum blossom makeup.” This makeup was popular among the women for a long time in the Tang and Song Dynasties.”
The flower/petal shapes typically represent the plum blossom. I’m not sure if the dot represents anything significant, besides being a common shape.
Below - actresses wearing huadian and mianye in film/tv:
Hope this helps! :)
Edit: See here for post identifying the the actresses/films/tv series in the compilation above.
Huadian (花钿) originated as a form of hair ornament, derivative of the ancient huasheng (花胜). They were plate shaped ornaments that decorated a noblewoman’s crown. Their number, along with the number of clusters of flower ornaments, decided the wearer’s rank. Later in the Tang dynasty, dianchai (钿钗), the Dian Pin, was used to refer to double pronged hairpins with a rounded flower-shaped top. These were worn as part of a woman’s wedding gown. Confusing enough, after the Northern and Southern Dynasties, dianhua (钿花) referred to a woman’s forehead marking, while huasheng took on the meaning of thin flower ornaments made of paper or gauze or metal foil and stuck to a woman’s hair at the temples. To distinguish between the ornaments, the forehead flower was also called huazi (花子), or “little flower”. It was combined with e-huang (额黄), a cosmetic trend where the forehead was painted yellow in a form of primitive contouring, to form huahuang (花黄), flower and yellow pigment.
A particularly patient and creative woman could paint on her own huadian, but most women spared themselves the time and effort by using pre-cut huadian stickers, these stickers could be made of gauze, gold and silver foil, paper, feathers, mica sheets, and, for the high maintenance court ladies, compressed pigment made from camellia seed oil. For a while in the Song Dynasty, they were even made from fish bones! Called “marine allure” (鱼媚子), the smell of these fishy charms became the bane of many a gentleman’s love life.
As one of the most beautiful trends to emerge from ancient China, huadian has a multitude of associated origin stories. The earliest story, from the Jin Dynasty, tells of how, during the Three Kingdoms period, Sun He, a prince of the Wu kingdom, accidentally smashed his crystal ruyi scepter over his wife’s head during a drunken dance. Though he quickly cleaned and dressed her wound with an ointment of powdered otter bones, jade, and amber, the doctors had mixed in too much amber, and as a result, when the lady’s wound healed, she was left with a red spot on her forehead. This gave her a special, elegant charm, and soon other women painted spots on their foreheads to try and emulate her. Fittingly, around the same time, across the Yangtze, Xue Yelai (薛夜来), a consort of the Wei Emperor Cao Pi (of the Luo goddess fame, currently a playable character in Dynasty Warriors) crashed her head through a glass screen when attending upon the Emperor in his study. It was late at night and the poor girl had never seen glass before, being rather new to the palace. Fortunately, no lasting damage was done besides two long gashes besides her temples. They healed into two red crescents that Cao Pi praised as resembling the rising sun peeking over the horizon. Other women in the Wei Harem painted red crescents resembling Xue Yelai’s scars on their faces, hoping to attract the Emperor. These two injury-inspired cosmetic tricks became huadian and xiehong (斜红). Later, during the Five Dynasties, legends claimed that the First Emperor once had a vision of the Queen of the Gods, and to show his faith, ordered his court ladies to decorate their faces in the same way as the goddess. During the Song Dynasty, the author Gao Cheng records that during the Song Dynasty of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, a plum blossom left a mark on the beautiful Princess Shouyang’s (寿阳公主) forehead. He also tells another story, where one of Wu Zetian’s chief advisers, Shangguan Wan-Er (上官婉儿), angered the Empress and was punished by having a red dot tattooed on her forehead. To hide this scarlet letter, she painted flower patterns over it. Another variation of the same legend claims she clipped part of her hair to hide her forehead and thus invented bangs. Known for both her wit and her charm, this female Prime Minister was certainly a trendsetter.
Thank you for sharing this historical background!
The Twelve Zodiacs
photographer：@老妖_Choco costume and makeup：@莫Mo_Makeup artist：@墨湫龍 calligrapher：@_小蘑菇菇抱着小豆丁 organizer：@一本企画 @闲时相馆
ox：@玖柯9k tiger：@cromartie rabbit：@石原桃美 dragon：@泊言Klaus snake：O英俊lulu酱 horse：@司南是南叔 goat：@钟哉宇 monkey：biu总 rooster：@胖虫小姐 dog：@张渊Cheung pig：@全全Piggy
Cosplay of the Chinese Zodiac in traditional Chinese hanfu.