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A cultural crossroads across time

By Wang Ru | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-22 07:46

Some of the musical instruments on display. CHINA DAILY

Fancy footwear

She also highlights shoes with "toe springs", or upward curves at their tips.

The researcher says that since the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century-11th century BC), people in China's Central Plains often wore this kind of shoe. The long robes or skirts they wore would drag on the ground, and the shoes would support their hems and prevent tripping. Over time, this became a characteristic of ancient Chinese footwear.

Although the prevalence of these shoes gradually declined during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, people in paintings made at the time were often depicted wearing them.

"This reflects cultural notions. When people think of ancient people, they think of them wearing these kinds of shoes," says He.

The examples on display are not from ancient times but rather are contemporary pairs made by the Zhuang, Miao, Sui and Yao ethnic groups.

"This indicates that although shoes with toe springs are not commonly worn by the Han ethnic group today, other ethnic groups in Southwest and Northwest China have preserved this style that's typical of ancient China's Central Plains," says He.

"It also demonstrates that non-Han ethnic groups have likewise inherited the aesthetics of the Central Plains and forged a shared aesthetic perspective."

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