The Lotus Palace Release Day & Free Read:
Five Things You Didn’t Know About Chinese Courtesans
While writing The Lotus Palace (and the short novella “Capturing the Silken Thief” before that) I had to do a lot of research into the society and culture of the Pingkang li, also called the North Hamlet, where the elite courtesans resided. I figured a “Five Things” list might be more interesting than a long, dry historical essay—though I’m perfectly happy to write those too!
1. They are NOT geisha
Japanese geisha culture seems to have permeated the Western conscious much more so than Chinese courtesan culture, but it’s important to know that the Chinese courtesans were not geisha. Though there are similarities in their functions in society, courtesans did not look or act like their Japanese counterparts and actually developed a distinctive culture before geisha culture evolved.
Or rather, beauty wasn’t their primary attraction. Beauty certainly helps, but the poetry dedicated to these women was more likely to emphasize their grace, intelligence, charm and wit as well as talent for music and poetry than just mere beauty. In fact, if a girl was “merely beautiful”, she might find herself relegated to the prostitution houses.
3. Elite courtesans were registered and could come from good families
Courtesans came from all walks of life with some being sold by their parents and others registering themselves as courtesans after their family fell on hard times. One of the most famous courtesans of the Tang Dynasty, Xue Tao, was the daughter of an official.
4. Sex was not a courtesan’s primary service
They were in demand for their skills in music and poetry as well as conversation. It seemed that their primary function was to serve as banquet hostesses for special feasts. Though it can be surmised that sex might have been included, the references to such fees don’t mention sex and are set apart from other discussions of brothels.
Courtesans were designated as first or second section and then also as common or head courtesans. Booking a “common” courtesan in the second section (lower class) for a day feast would cost 500 coins, whereas booking a head courtesan in the first section for the same day feast would cost 2000 coins. A night feast would see those rates doubled. (source: “Courtesan Culture in the beili zhi in the Context of Tang Tales and Poems” by Jing Wang)
5. The courtesan provided an idealistic figure of romantic love
It has been theorized that because so many of these upstanding gentlemen were wed in arranged marriages to a woman of their family’s choosing, their relationship with a courtesan was their chance at romantic love – a love that wasn’t tied down by familial duty. Unfortunately this brief time of courtship, wine and poetry would inevitably come to an end. There is no wonder that so much of the love poetry of the Tang Dynasty and other dynasties as well focus on unrequited love.
Fortunately, THE LOTUS PALACE is a love story that won’t end in tragedy—or so we hope!
THE LOTUS PALACE, a historical romance and murder mystery set in the Tang Dynasty, is available now in print or ebook.
Blurb: When a famous courtesan is murdered, a clever maidservant teams up with the notorious playboy and failed scholar of the Pingkang li to solve the crime, but can they defy the bonds of class and culture to find love and happiness?
Links: Amazon - http://amzn.to/16swjJG B&N - http://bit.ly/15ah3BB
FREE READ! You can also get a peek into the pleasure quarter in the introductory short novella, CAPTURING THE SILKEN THIEF. Free from 8/25 to 9/7 on Amazon and B&N.
Links: Amazon - http://amzn.to/16PKPeu B&N - http://bit.ly/1cZtB4A
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