A study of the standards of beauty and hair culture in East Asia: a historical analysis of wigs in the Joseon Dynasty
Maria Watanabe (Nagoya University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper describes East Asian hair culture and provides an analysis of standards of beauty. It focuses on hair exports to China and Japan during the Joseon dynasty and examines how hair culture differed in these regions.
Paper long abstract:
East Asian standards of beauty have historically included hair. This paper seeks to shed light on the history of East Asian hair culture, including the international trade in hair within the region. During the Joseon Dynasty hair was exported to Japan and China, a situation which may have influenced how South Korea and China are today leaders in the international wig industry. Wigs have long been considered as little more than decorative products despite their role as one element in a broader hair culture. Throughout the region and over the centuries, wigs have been central in displaying hair to convey rank, authority, and social position, but there has been attention paid to the role of wigs. This paper examines hair exports during the Joseon Dynasty and considers the wigs made from that hair and the related standards for beauty in the context of the overall hair culture of East Asia. Consideration will be given to both historical materials and to legends and other traditional tales. This approach will clarify the history of the hair trade before looking at the hair culture of today. The paper does not, however, attempt to examine the present; rather it uses the long Joseon Dynasty as a way into the overarching hair culture of East Asia.Download the full paper
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