Etymology of Bijin-gaIn Japanese the word “Bijin-ga” is
written like this:
As you can see this word is composed of 3 characters (3 kanjis):
- The first kanji is 美 which means “beautiful” and his reading is “bi”.
- The second kanji is 人 which means “person” and his reading is “jin” or “hito”.
- The third kanji is 画 which means “picture” and his reading is “ga”.
Picture of Beautiful Person
The origins of Bijin-gaEdo period and their beautiful women.Bijin-ga is an artistic style of ukiyo-e which is intertwined with the pleasure district of Japan. There used to be 3 of them in the big cities of the Edo period. During the beginning of the Edo period, prostitution were widespread and uncontrolled, therefore, to counter this situation, the Tokugawa shogunate restricted prostitution to a few district: Shimabara for Kyōto, Shinmachi for Ōsaka, and Yoshiwara for Edo.
This is in these places that the ukyio-e artist found their beautiful women model (bijin), from there was born the bijin-ga style.
Pleasure district, restriction, fashion and ukiyo-eDuring the Edo period, there was a regulation on the dress code for everyone in society, yet, it was very difficult to enforce such regulation. This dress code regulation were to identify social rank and privilege for each individual which were encouraged for their imitation and appropriation enforcing the cast system.
In these regulations, prostitutes were supposed to wear only simple blue robes, yet, these laws were rarely enforced. Despite this situation, the pleasure district were the place for fashion during the Edo period, courtesans were competing with each other to attract the most customer which created innovation in the fashion world of the time, rivaling with stylish kimono, beautiful accessories, concerning hairstyles, makeup, and even the manner of wearing kimono. Fashion was so important in Yoshiwara that it frequently dictated the fashion trends for the rest of Japan.
In this unique world in the Edo period, the caste system was also omnipresent, the indentured servants of the segregated pleasure districts were also classified in a hierarchical structure. The high-ranking ladies often dressed in the highest fashion of the time, with bright colorful silk kimonos and expensive and elaborate hair decorations. Also, there was a symbol always present in their garment which represented their house and rank, this was shown by their kimonos patterns, design and style, but also from their fan design.
Famous artist of the Kacho-e styleKitagawa UtamaroKitagawa Utamaro was an ukiyo-e artist which could enjoy fame during his lifetime due to his hard work. He was able to produce more than 2000 known prints. He was mainly knowned for his bijinga art, yet, he also created some nature studies, specializing in insects.