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Showing Rank

DSC00921Does our clothes show our wealth and status? Well it did in medieval China. Back then the garments and materials you wore were clearly laid down so that rank and social position was obvious. Those who were at the lower end of the spectrum wore clothing made from hemp and other vegetable fibres. But as you rose up the hierarchy you got to the silk brigade. Whether you were nobility, high up in the civil service  or serving in the barmy you showed your position with a rank panel on the front of your robe. That was true of ladies was well. In fact, you can see what they looked like in this garment for a woman of rank shown in Durham University’s Oriental Museum. However, the real ‘creme de la creme’ had panels showing dragons not with four claws but five. This symbol denoted that you were in the imperial family or its staff.

So what denotes rank today? In Britain, accent still is a give away but so is dress and possessions. Who hasn’t clocked someone else’s ostentatious designer label, car marque or preference in supermarkets? In the long run probably rank panels, even in the finest silk, would be cheaper.  

 

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Discovering times gone by

This afternoon, I did something terribly old fashioned. I just sat in the garden reading a book with a sun hat on. Old fashioned because everyone else seems to be doing something. In fact, it seems positively sinful to sit at home and enjoy the sun’s warmth. Actually, I was reading the witty an enjoyable ‘The Perfect Summer’ by Juliet Nicolson. Its a social history of the summer of 1911; the last beautiful season before the Great War. No wonder then it is subtitled – dancing into the Shadow. However, despite the growing storm clouds, there was something appealing about those years. In particular, the less pressured life when personal news came through the letter box and world tidings via the newspaper. No social websites, emails, mobile phones and satellite TV for them.

Of course there is much from that age that we would not tolerate for a minute today. Yet their pace of life with its weekly routine must beat our 24/7 obsession. Their seasons must have the pleasure of reacquaintance ship that our unbroken desire for the fruits of the globe dulls. Their joy at a perfect summer must have been greater than ours faced as it is with a constant stream of days that all seem the same in their rapidity of passing. So maybe we should,from time to time, bring some of the peace of nearly one hundred years ago back to our living of these frenetic times. Hopefully then we too will rediscover a perfect summer by visiting times gone just by being still.

 

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