We have talked about a few stories from the book A New Account of the Tales of the World 世说 新语, a book complied and edited during the Liu Song dynasty刘宋 around the year 420 to 479. The book contains more than 1000 historical anecdotes of more than 600 people who lived in the Han dynasty 汉朝 and Wei-Jin 魏晋 periods. There is even a whole chapter called RongZhi 容止 about men’s appearance during the time.
Today we will continue the series about handsome men.
This story is about a good-looking man named He PingShu 何平叔. In the book A New Account of the World, it says, he had a impeccable face and body. I assume he is probably close to the kind of flower boys who have the appeal of “soft masculinity” in Asia these days.
I know this is a trend in Asia starting from Korean and Japan for the past 10 or more years that those flower boys are popular for Asian women. It is amazing to see today that thanks to the Internet, under the huge impact of the Asian pop culture, women from other cultures start to appreciate this kind of ethics as well.
I think the appreciation of “soft masculine” flower boys started way back in ancient China. Unlike in the west, masculine men are usually poplar, maybe partly due to Confucianism and Taoism, I think most Chinese women actually prefer knowledgeable and gentle guys. They don’t have to be strong or masculine at all.
He PingShu, this flower boy, had a super pale skin. Traditionally, in Asia, people with lighter skin color are considered more good-looking which is the opposite that in the west people prefer tanned skin. I mean the logic behind the two societies are actually the same. In the ancient agriculture society, farmers need to work outside all day long and usually had darker skin however the officials and the upper class can stay indoor and tended to have lighter skin. Just like in the west, people have tanned skin are considered as being rich that they can have sunbath vacations. People just prefer the look rich in general.
The Emperor WeiMing 魏明帝 was suspicious about the beauty of He PingShu and thought he was for sure having make up on. This idea was not from nowhere. Actually during Han dynasty 汉朝 and Wei-Jin 魏晋 periods, back to the year 200, using make up was popular among the upper class males in China. The Emperor had an idea that he invited He PingShu in the palace for a hot noodle soup. It was the summer time. The Emperor wanted to see him eating hot noodle soup in the hot weather until he was sweating maybe his makeup would fade away. Just as the Emperor expected, He PingShu was eating and sweating. He wiped his face with his clothes, but his face looked more gorgeous with the highlights.
This article was trying to describe how handsome He ShuPing was but I feel like we can use this trick that if you think someone has too much make up just invite them for a hot noodle soup and see what happens.
世说新语 A New Account of the Tales of the World