This Intl Women’s Day weekend, Hanfugirls celebrate Chinese femininity

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In case you’ve yet to catch the latest interview that the Hanfugirls Collective has done with the South Morning China Post (SCMP)

We’re not weak, we’re Wonder Women: real Chinese femininity celebrated by group fighting traditional stereotypes through ancient dress and customs

I’m shamelessly linking it above and below before we go into what we have prepared for you this International Women’s Day!

SCMP Lifestyle

This International Women’s Day, we’ve prepared a range of experiences and learning opportunities to satisfy both our thirst for knowledge and our penchant for vanity.

We will kickstart the weekend with a full day of activities focusing on the concept of Chinese femininity (not the way you probably assumed for it to be), epitomised by the Chinese courtesans who are really more of the predecessors of Geishas than what conventionally we would think of as prostitutes.

Of course, since I’ve said in the news report that the world has no lack of pretty girls, we need more empowered women, I can’t possibly offer photoshoot opportunities/packages that are not historically-accurate (means the airy-fairy-goddess kind one would see on TV). Think of it as an experiential learning opportunity rather than a simple glamour shoot opportunity. As part of our fundraising efforts for the performance, I’m partnering Dressed Up Dreams Photo Studio for the Tang courtesan dress-up experience. I will focus on the styling, and Sharon my counterpart will focus on the photos.

7 MARCH 2020

To the ancient Chinese, music and dance were referred to by the same word yuè 乐, and entertainers both male and female would be referred to as jì 伎. Over time, jì came to be identified with female entertainers, then courtesans, and eventually, prostitutes.

Day 2 Twins-3edited

History has always been told from a man’s perspective, of their conquests, victories and achievements. This International Women’s Day, we are telling the stories and artistic legacies of women from the ancient past starting from music and dance.

Workshop & Lecture: Ancient Chinese performing arts and its evolution in history
7 Mar (Sat) | 2pm–3.30pm
Speakers: Elizabeth Chan & Cen Hai Shan*

Music and dance have been an integral part of human life throughout history in every culture. Each culture has its unique aesthetic sensibilities which is usually a culmination of beliefs, lifestyle factors and these in turn shape its art forms. It is a continual evolution brought about with the exchange of ideas and people with the opening up of trade routes and human migration. Come and learn more about the evolution of Chinese classical music and dance through the ages, and how foreign influences have contributed to the arts we now know today. Do dress in comfortable attire as you will have the chance to learn and experiment with a few dance movements in this interactive session. 

Origins of the Geisha: Women and Art in Tang China

Part I: Encountering Tang courtesans in early Yanzilou
$40/person (limited to 10 guests who will stay on for the lecture)
7 Mar (Sat) | 7pm–9pm

Poets and scholars feverishly penned poems to catch her eye, while noblemen gifted her with mansions in exchange for an evening of entertainment. The Tang courtesan accepts no ordinary patrons – only those who value her art above the banal things in life. Tonight, the courtesans of Yanzilou will host ten guests fortunate enough to catch their fancy – you may indulge in conversation with them about the fascinating culture of Tang, and take in the sights and sounds of a regular evening in the courtesan house.

Part II: Origins of the Geisha: Women and Art in Tang China (Lecture)
Speaker: Mamapan (Hanfugirl)
7 Mar (Sat) | 8pm–9pm

Modern literature, pop culture and even academics often dismiss the courtesans of ancient China as just prostitutes, without exploring their artistic achievements and legacies in a historical narrative dominated by male scholars, literatis, and historians. On the other hand, the Japanese Geishas who were very much influenced by the ancient Chinese courtesans traditions, have been hailed as keepers of Japanese artistic traditions, admired and respected by foreigners and Japanese alike. This lecture will unveil the forgotten origins of geishas in the form of Tang dynasty courtesans, who held contradictory identities of both superstar celebrities and slaves, occupying the liminal space between a muse and a slave, and who were indispensable in the proliferation and popularisation of Tang dynasty literature and arts. You will also see how female entertainers, then as now, were also subjected to objectification and exploitation of their talent, and how history is always repeating itself.

8 MARCH 2020

So this is the moment many of you have been waiting for! Photoshoots! I don’t typically do photoshoots for the public because of my schedule and need for me-time. But I was relieved to find a partner in Sharon who would be doing the photos while I just focus on the styling (yay to no more sleepless nights of photo-editing!). Whenever there’s a query/request for photoshoots, I would also typically refer people to Sharon since she does it professionally for a living.

For this collaboration, you will be transformed into a Tang courtesan and have a taste of what life was like through her eyes. It would also be a once-a-lifetime chance for you to get any shoot of yourself done in our beautifully decorated to Tang style space!


As playing the role of a famous courtesan is no easy feat, come with an open mind, an appreciation for alternative beauty ideals, and an inquisitive spirit in order to get the most out of the session!

Packages start from $588 for an hour’s shoot between 1pm–6pm, and you can top up another $100 for a pure silk dress which was recreated to be as authentic as possible based on Tang artefacts and paintings.

If you were to engage me beyond this opportunity, it would cost you a lot more, so do grab this chance!

More details available HERE.



Elizabeth Chan

Elizabeth Chan, or 美锜, is a Chinese dance practitioner-researcher. She graduated from the University of Roehampton (London) with an MA in Dance Studies in 2016 and prior to that, from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts with a BFA in Dance (majoring in Chinese dance) in 2013. She worked in Hong Kong for two years, with Hong Kong Disneyland and as a freelance dance artist. Most recently she is based in Singapore, studying her PhD at the National University of Singapore, as well as working with local artists and fellow Chinese dance practitioners on varied contemporary, intercultural and traditional topics. Her own research is focused on the multiple past and present positions of Chinese dance in the world.

Cen Haishan

Haishan is a Guzheng teacher and performer. She graduated from the China Conservatory of Music with a B.A. in Music Performance. She has played for TV broadcast both in China and Singapore. Haishan has performed with key arts groups both as a soloist and ensemble player with the  Singapore Chinese Orchestra, City Chinese Orchestra, DingYi Music Company, Teng Company. She was featured in MediaCorp Channel 5 documentary, The Big Unknown I & II in 2005-2006. Her other identities include being a certified Yoga and Taijigong instructor.

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