I was reading luxurymakupbrushes.com and saw multiple methods Ancient Chinese women did for wearing lipsticks.

But what was the meaning behind each? Were them used to differentiate each woman based on their hierarchical class in the society? Or were them just artistic make-ups? Or a way to seduce men?

Fashion came into existence in 20th century because of several reasons. I don't think that was a thing more than 1000 years ago. Also, royal members were among who did these make-ups. I don't think they wanted to do a fashion! Imagine Kate Middleton dresses up like fashion shows and does a catwalk! That doesn't even come into mind! Even now that fashion is rocking the world. Royal members are so strict in their manners.

  • 4
    The lipstick styles existed during different eras, hundreds of years apart. Do you have any reason to believe it's not just fashion?
    – SPavel
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 23:40
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    Oh my. Oh my, no. sewguide.com/evolution-of-history-of-fashion
    – SPavel
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 23:49
  • I think I recall hearing that a great deal of Han Chauvinism is historically retrofitted into the Tang dynasty, particularly in the context of fashion. If I were researching anything related to the Tang, I'd triple check my sources for accuracy and for modern political bias.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 13:07
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    Here's a book with a nice overview of what little is actually known about ancient Chinese lip makeup. Without a better source I'm inclined to suspect those styles in the article linked from the question are just (pardon the pun) made up.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 20:38
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    You may want to rephrase your question a bit. Fashion came into existence not in the 20th century but at the dawn of time.
    – Jos
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


Ok. The idea that Royal or Noble members of Chinese society don't follow fashion trends is absurd. Kate Middleton doesn't do catwalks; however, she does wear designer clothes from some of the greatest designers in the world. Modern fashion is simply a new era in the long history of fashion. Think of the corsets, wigs and white tights of the 19th Century.

To answer your question: The differences in lipstick across the evolution of Chinese history are evidence of the changes in thought and trade in each dynasty. For example, in the Wei Dynasty, with increasing influence of Buddhism from India, people were generally obsessed with "becoming gods and goddesses" and dressed accordingly. Therefore, the lips of many Wei women, as you can see on the website, are slender and long, like you can see on many Buddha statues from that time period.

Another example: during the Tang Dynasty, with increased openness because of increased global trade, women were given more rights and the fashion trend for women was being slightly heavier, which coincides with the increased accentuation of the lip.

There are a couple of sources you could refer to; however, they usually call for some knowledge in reading and understanding Chinese.

If you want a definitive guide to most of Chinese culture and artifacts, I would recommend a YouTube channel called 马未都讲历史. This is a channel owned by one of the most prestigious historians in China and analyzes the ideas behind much of Chinese culture. He speaks in Chinese, but I am sure that there are English subtitles.

These are two pretty good resources I found online by Stone Brooks and Cambridge University respectively



They explain how cultural, economical and political factors all affected the different styles of clothing throughout Chinese history.

  • This is useful information, but could you edit your answer to add in some sources, please? (And what is "the website"?)
    – CDR
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 0:52
  • I would like to note that, while it is true that styles have varied from dynasty to dynasty, the website you referred to isn't entirely historically accurate. Maybe refer to a better source, such as the National Palace Museum or History.com rather than a source called luxurymakupbrushes.com. As evidence, I will cite that the first picture of Tang Dynasty makeup is inherently wrong, as a real beauty in the Tang Dynasty would be heavier and have much more intricate ornaments. Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 0:54
  • @CDR, I am referring to the website that the author of the question referred to, which is luxurymakupbrushes.com. I will add some sources above. Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 0:56

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