A tinge of vermeil to please the sweetheart 点点朱红悦情郎

In ancient China, especially in the Tang Dynasty, there were seven steps in cosmetic makeup(化妆品huàzhuāngpǐn) for the belles: powder(粉末fěnmò) base, applying color to the face, eye-brow darkening, applying “forehead gold” or “floral twinkle/gold”, painting the dimples(酒窝jiǔwō), decorating the cheeks(面颊miànjiá) and applying lip(唇chún) color. 





If eyes are the window to the soul(灵魂línghún), lips are the mirrors of one’s character and temperament(气质qìzhì). Being an important part of face decoration(装饰zhuāngshì) as shown above, lip makeup enjoys a long history and has various patterns in different periods. 







It is believed that lip makeup was originally practiced to please the gods in religious occasions. As time passed by, people realized that it could liven up one’s spirit(精神jīngshén) and sometimes even could reveal one’s social status. As a consequence, different materials for lip beauty products were constantly tested and used to make the lips red and bright, creating the Chinese art of lip makeup. 






The lip beauty products in ancient China were normally called “lip balm” or “mouth balm”, as recorded by the Chinese dictionary Shiming (or: Explanation of Names) written by Liu Xi in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD25—AD220). 







It should be pointed out that, in its early stage, as with most other types of makeup, lip balm was typically, but not exclusively, worn by women. This paste-like and sticky mixture was applied to relieve chapped or dry lips caused by dry air, cold temperatures(温度wēndù) or wind. The primary purpose(目的mùdì) of lip balm is to provide a layer on the lip surface(表面biǎomiàn) to seal moisture(水分shuǐfèn) in, protecting them from external exposure. 






During historic times, the raw material was vermilion(朱砂zhūshā), whose chemical composition is mercuric sulfide (HgS). It was produced in Hunan, Guizhou and Sichuan Province and bears the perfect color for ideal lips. However, lacking strong adhesion(粘附zhānfù), vermilion is easily dissolved on warm lips so its shiny red could not last long. Therefore, later on, the ancient people added mineral wax and animal fat, making vermilion water-proof with strong adhesive force. 







The early lip balm was not like the lipstick we see today, but was a paste held in a particular container(容器róngqì). After Sui (AD 589 — AD 618) and Tang Dynasties, some lip balm was processed into solid substance, tubular in shape. Being handy, this new type soon gained popularity. The production of lip balm has not undergone great renovation(革新géxīn) only until modern times. 






The lip balm in ancient China also bore fantastic fragrance(芬芳fēnfāng). In the North Dynasty (AD 386—AD 581) raw materials included ageratum(藿香huòxiāng) and clove(丁香dīngxiāng). In the Tang Dynasty, artificial flavors were added to the lip balm. 



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