Leisure, Recreation, and Daily Life: Chronology

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617-1644: Leisure, Recreation, and Daily Life: Chronology




  • Tea becomes a popular drink during the Tang dynasty (618-907), although it originated somewhere along the Burma-India border and was most likely introduced into China by Buddhist monks well before this period.
  • Dragon-boat racing becomes a widespread recreation on the Yangzi (Yangtze) River and the West River in South China.


  • Influenced by central Asians, the Tang people begin to abandon their tradition of sitting on floor mats and accept the foreign habit of sitting on chairs and stools.


  • Hair buns are being combed higher; hairstyles increase in number and become more complex.


  • The Tang court establishes a series of martial arts examinations and contests.


  • Tea Masters begin to appear in the Tang dynasty. They are responsible for buying teas, procuring pure tea water, and preparing tea for the family and guests. It is a sign of great prestige for the rich family to have a Tea Master on the household staff.


  • The curtained hat, a kind of bamboo headpiece with high top and broad brim, begins to appear and gradually replaces the covering kerchief.


  • The Tang emperor decrees that purple, scarlet, green, and blue are to be worn only by officials with rank, while officials without rank and the masses are prohibited from using these colors because many unauthorized people are wearing them under their outer garments. Lower level officials and commoners are permitted to wear only yellow and white.


  • Weiqi, a board game known in the West by the Japanese name go, begins to appear and becomes a popular recreation in the following centuries.


  • The Tartat hat is fashionable, but in the following decades women opt for switch buns, called false buns.
  • Clothing styles change when women no longer apply red powder to their faces; instead, they use only black ointment for their lips.


  • The emperor builds a forty-five-meter structure laden with fifty thousand lanterns for the pleasure of the inhabitants of the capital.


  • The Tang court orders that mothers or wives of officials dress according to the rank of their sons or husbands; women associated with men of higher than the fifth rank are allowed to wear mauve—those higher than the ninth rank can wear crimson.


  • The design of turbans begins to change when the ear flaps, either round or broad, stick up a little, looking like stiff wings. This type of headgear is called the Stiff-Flapped turban.



  • High hair buns are often decorated with different kinds of flowers.


  • The turban becomes used purely as a hat by the end of the Tang dynasty.
  • Li Ye flies a kite with a small section of bamboo fastened to it by a silk ribbon, and his kite creates a musical or whistling sound because of the vibration of the wind on the ribbon. Kites are thereafter named fengzheng (aeolian harps).


  • Jurchen government leaders decree that officials of certain ranks may, as a sign of special respect, display lances before their gates.


  • Teahouses begin to appear and become popular throughout China by the end of the Song dynasty (960-1279). They become social, entertainment, and cultural centers.
  • Two types of handmade fans—flat and folding—begin to appear in China.


  • The turban becomes the chief headgear of men. Civil officials and military officers, even the emperor, generally wear turbans when attending sacrificial rituals and significant court sessions.
  • The Chinese begin to use high tables for eating, writing, painting, and praying at home and in temples.


  • Regional cuisines have been well developed by the time the Chinese support regional restau-rants in capital cities. Sichuan cooking is distinguished from other styles by its spiciness and the use of mountain products and herbs. Cantonese cooking also appears in the capitals.


  • The Illustrated Basic Herbal, which illustrates and describes hundreds of foods, is published.


  • Li Jie completes a manual for palace-style building, Yingzao Fashi (Building Principles), which codifies the standards required for constructing wood-frame dwellings.


  • After the rule of the Northern Song (960-1125), the styles of skirts change. The width of most skirts increase more than six fold and ruffles are employed.


  • By the reign of the Southern Song (1127-1279), wrapping turbans become popular, and high-ranking officials at the imperial courts enjoy wearing them.


  • Tea production is becoming an intensely commercialized agribusiness, completely different from peasant subsistence farming, toward the end of the Song dynasty, because monopolistic government control of tea production increases significantly, and the cult of the teahouse develops along with other refined arts of life.


  • Mooncakes begin to appear at the Moon Festival. Stamped on top with pictures of the Moon Goddess, Chang E, or with favorable Chinese characters, mooncakes are buns filled with a sweet paste made of lotus or watermelon seeds or red dates, which stand for the fertility of the season.


  • Imperial physicians present to the emperor a monograph, Essentials of Dietetics, including entries on antelope, bears, various deer, tigers, leopards, marmots, swans, pheasants, cranes, and many other wild animals and birds. Although some of these animals are used for medicinal purposes, most of them are regarded as food.


  • The folding fan becomes the main style of fan used by artists, intellectuals, and scholars, who frequently draw flowers and write poems on fans for their colleagues.


  • The Ming government organizes contests to promote the expansion of the martial arts.


  • During the reign of Emperor Taizu, ordinary people can neither have designs on their boots nor decorate them with gold thread.


  • Chen Wangtin develops the martial art oftaijiquan, also known as Supreme Pole Boxing; it combines graceful moves with spiritual meditation.


  • The Ming court (1368-1644) decrees that common people, government runners, mer-chants, physicians, and diviners can wear only leather boots, while officials, their fathers, brothers, paternal uncles, brothers’ sons, and sons-in-law can wear satin boots.


  • The lion dance becomes popular among villagers in Guangdong province to scare away wildlife that has killed many people and domesticated animals.


  • The Ming government codifies a new set of costume rules to encourage people to under-take the extensive reform of dress, bringing about the reinstatement of clothing worn during the Tang and Song dynasties.


  • The Ming declares that no matter how wealthy a commoner is nor how many houses he holds, no hall can surpass in width three jian, a space between two support beams in a row.


  • Mahjong based on tarot cards is introduced to China from Europe and soon becomes a popular recreation in the Ming dynasty.


  • During the reign of Emperor Wuzong, merchants, officials with rank, servants, prostitutes, actors, and all “mean” people are forbidden to wear sable.


  • Women’s hairstyles become more varied during the reign of Emperor Jiajing.


  • The ground-nut (peanut) is mentioned for the first time in Chinese books.


  • Mentioned for the first time by books in Honan, maize is high yielding and easy to grow even in hilly and poor soil, and its cultivation spreads rapidly in Ming China.


  • The Fujian governor encourages people to eat sweet potatoes, which were introduced to China in the later half of the sixteenth century, for famine relief; these tubers become an important food source for poor families.


  • By the end of the Ming dynasty, switches (hair extensions) have become more varied and popular.

* Denotes Circa Date