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Vocabularies of Pleasure: Categorizing Female Entertainers in the Late Tang Dynasty

From: Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
Volume 72, Number 1, June 2012
pp. 71-99 | 10.1353/jas.2012.0013

Abstract

Abstract:

Examining changing terminology for female entertainers from early imperial times through the Tang dynasty, Beverly Bossler argues that the so-called "Tang courtesan culture" emerged only in the very late Tang. She shows that well into the Tang commercially available female entertainers (chang 娼) were socially distinct from the private entertainers (ji 妓) found in elite households. With the expansion of markets and entertainments during the late eighth and ninth centuries, new categories of female entertainers-including courtesan-entertainers maintained by the government to perform at official banquets-proliferated, and the social distinctions between commercial and household entertainers blurred. By the late Tang, relationships with entertainers became an important aspect of literati culture and were to remain so into the Song dynasty and beyond.



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