Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The tinkling of the aristocracy

Fashions change. I just learnt from Louise Levathes’ book When China Ruled the Seas that upper-class men in fifteenth-century Siam made a tinkling noise when they moved. Why? Because at age twenty, they “had a dozen tin or gold beads partly filled with sand inserted into their scrotums.” According to a Chinese translator Ma Huan, this looked like “a cluster of grapes”, which Ma found “curious” but the Siamese considered “beautiful”. Were this to catch on again among the upper classes here, David Cameron’s Cabinet might sound rather more delightful, as long as they kept their mouths shut.

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