Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

Japan’s Tradition of Make-Up

Thursday, August 12th, 2010
A Traditional Geisha in Japan   Photo by Tracey Taylor

A traditional geisha in Japan. Photo: Tracey Taylor

The beauty and grace of Japan’s geishas are among many reasons visitors travel to certain parts of the Japan, such as Kyoto. The geisha tradition gained prominence in the mid-18th century, as women worked as skilled entertainers after seeing the success of male performers. Their talents included dancing, singing, playing music, and even creating poetry and artistic calligraphy.

While well-known for thir exquisite clothing, one of the most notable identifiers of a geisha is her immaculate make-up. The application of this makeup is time-consuming, detailed, and specific, and is an extra effort for apprentice geishas who are required to wear it while in public. For the first three years, the young maiko wear their make-up almost constantly.

The make-up of an apprentice geisha include three notable features – the thick, white foundation, red lips, and red and black highlights around the eyes. The white foundation originally included lead, but when it was discovered how toxic it was, the ingredient was changed to rice powder.

The white foundation covers the face completely except for two notable areas – the hairline, which gives the illusion of a mask, and the nape of the neck, which is designed in a traditional W shape, highlighting and accentuating the area, which is considered alluring. Then the eyes are outlined, originally using charcoal. Today modern eyeliner is used, but maiko still add red around the eyes to show their youthful status.

The woman’s red lips are filled in using a small brush with crystallized sugar added to the color to add texture. The rank of the geisha can easily be identified by looking at her lips. First year maiko only have their lower lip filled with color. Only a full-fledged geisha may have her lips fully colored red. It rare to see the lips filled in western-style as it would make the lips look unusually large; the intent is to give the illusion of a flower bud.

After a maiko has worked for three years, her make-up becomes more subdued because now she has matured to a point where her natural beauty can be seen. After the age of thirty, geisha wear the traditional make up only for formal events or special performances.

Which kind of make-up would you never forget to put in your luggage? Share below.

Appreciate the cosmetic efforts and performance skills of geisha in person on our Eternal Japan tour. International airfare included!

Photo: Romance in India

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
Romance Blooms in Agra at the Taj Mahal

Romance Blooms in Agra at the Taj Mahal

There are some love stories that have become legendary. Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, and Scarlett O’hara and Rhett Butler to name a few. Then there are love stories that are actually true, like the love between The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz of India. While we may not have their names on the tips of our toungues, their symbol of love is a lasting icon:

The Taj Mahal.

The Emperor created the architectural treasure after his wife passed away when giving birth to his 14th child. Not only were the Mughals wealthy, they were incredibly supportive of the arts - including architecture, gourmet foods, and music. In the mid-17th century, the Emperor built the symmetrical memorial out of white Makran marble, placing his wife’s grave at the center.

While this may have perfected the symmetry of the Taj Mahal, it wasn’t the end of the story. Shah Jahan was overthrown by his zealous and fanatical son Aurangzeb, held under house arrest, and later buried alongside his long departed wife – which technically throws off the symmetry of the building, but doesn’t mar its beauty in the eyes of visitors who flock to it each year.

What was the most romantic thing you’ve done for someone you love?

Take your love to the Taj Mahal on Mystical India, a Smithsonian Journeys Signature Tour.  

Video: A Palace with 9,999 Rooms

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Most of us are lucky to have a home that might have three bedrooms and one bathroom. But imagine living in a place that has 9,999 rooms! There is such a home which boasts the name “The Forbidden City,” and it can found in the middle of  Beijing, China.

But why 9,999? Why not 10,000?

There’s a perfectly good reason, but you’ll have to watch this video to find out. If you want to learn more, China’s Forbidden City can be seen on the Smithsonian Channel. This summer, students who travel on our new Smithsonian Studies Abroad program in Beijing will have the opportunity to see the Forbidden City and explore some of these rooms. They may come back wanting to redecorate their own bedroom, or possibly the entire house.

Would you want to live in a home with 9,999 rooms?

Smithsonian Studies Abroad is filling up fast for this summer! Will you go to China, Italy or Spain?

Video: Angkor Wat in 3-D

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in South-East Asia and dates as early as the 9th century. After time, neglect, and war damaged the site, UNESCO put the historical remains on its World Heritage List, as well as the World Heritage in Danger List to save it from further destruction and looting. Since then, there has been work to preserve the temples by both professional archaeologists and locals. To see the size and scope of this monument located in the Cambodian jungle, check out this 3-D digital interpretation.

Explore this and other UNESCO World Heritage sites on the Treasures of Angkor Wat and Vietnam tour.

What is your favorite UNESCO World Heritage site? Share Below