Portrait of a Mandarin in 1800

ethnic china

Portrait of a Mandarin in 1800

This was the year in which a very interesting book was published, which through 60 portraits, tried to show some aspects of life in China to the western public. A book now in the public domain, from which we adapted «A Mandarin of distinction, in his ceremonial habit.»

The dress of a Chinese is suited to the gravity of his demeanour. It  consists, in general, of a long vest extending to the ankle: the sleeves are  wide at the shoulder, are gradually narrower at the wrist, and are rounded  off in the form of a horse-shoe, covering the whole hand when it is not  lifted up. No man of rank is allowed to appear in public without boots,  which have no heels, and are made of satin, silk, or calico. In full dress he  wears a long silk gown, generally of a blue colour and heavily embroidered;  over this is placed a surcoat of silk, which reaches to the hand, and descends  below the knee. From his neck is suspended a string of costly coral beads.  His cap is edged with satin, velvet, or fur, and on the crown is a red ball with  a peacock’s feather hanging from it: these are badges of distinction conferred by the emperor. The embroidered bird upon the breast is worn only  by mandarins high in civil rank, while the military mandarins are distinguished by an embroidered dragon. All colours are not suffered to be worn  indiscriminately. The emperor and the princes of the blood only, are  allowed to wear yellow; although violet colour is sometimes chosen by  mandarins of rank on days of ceremony. The common people seldom wear  any other than blue or black, and white is universally adopted for mourning.

 — The Chinese carefully avoid every word or gesture which may betray  either anger or any violent emotion of the mind. They entertain the highest  reverence for their parents, and respect for the aged. They are enthusiastic  admirers of virtue, and venerate the memory of such of their nation as have  been celebrated for a love of justice and of their country, With this singular  people neither riches nor birth can ever establish the smallest claim to  honours. Personal merit is the sole basis upon which any man can raise  himself to distinguished rank. Talents and virtue are indispensably requisite for those in power ; and where they are deficient, every advantitious or  hereditary pretension is totally disallowed.

De George Henry Mason. The costume of China: illustrated by sixty engravings: with explanations in English and French. London, 1800.

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