The Art of Geishas|艺妓,技艺

The Art of Geishas

by William Ryan

There is more to a geisha than meets the eye.

  The term geisha refers to traditional, female entertainers, and hostesses and has been an integral part of Japanese culture since the 18th century. While physical beauty and sexual charm are associated with geishas, much more is required. Geisha means artist or performing artist. Proficiency in the Japanese arts of dance and music is an essential prerequisite for this occupation that requires at least one year of formal training. Geishas must also be able to converse intelligently with their clients on a wide range of subjects. In most parts of Japan, apprentices must be 18 years old. Historically, however, geisha training began at around the age of five. There are several stages of training, and each one could last for several years.


  Geishas can be traced back to the 8th century. Wandering girls orphaned by tribal warfare sold themselves to survive. Those who were better educated entertained at elite social gatherings. This was the beginning of geisha culture, an occupation of subservience that would eventually, for many, come to signify Japanese female independence. By the mid 1800s, geisha style and fashion was being imitated by well-to-do Japanese women. Geishas flourished until World War II when most women were suddenly needed to work in factories as factory workers. This resulted in a sharp decline in geishas. After the war, Japan embraced Western ways and most geishas did not return to their former occupation. Those who returned were able to revive and preserve the tradition, but with more independence than before. Compulsory education laws effectively ended the traditional geisha apprenticeship. Many women who had learned business skills in teahouses eventually became successful entrepreneurs. They came to represent social independence and economic self-sufficiency for a new generation of Japanese women.


艺妓,技艺

艺妓可不是你所见到的那么容易。

  『艺妓』这个名词指的是传统的女性表演者及女侍,自十八世纪以来一直都是日本文化中不可或缺的一部份。虽然外貌姣好和充满性魅力的形象常与艺妓联想在一起,不过要成为艺妓还需要具备更多的条件。艺妓指的是艺人或是表演艺人。精通日本舞蹈及音乐技艺是这份职业必要的先决条件,这需要至少一年的正式训练。艺妓也必须能够机智地与客人就各式各样的话题作交谈。在日本大部份地区,学徒必须年满十八岁。然而,就历史角度来看,艺妓的训练大约从五岁便开始了。训练分好几个阶段,每一个阶段可能会持续好几年。


  艺妓的起源可以追溯至公元八世纪。当时有许多流浪少女在部落战争中成为孤儿,因而卖身以求生存。那些受过良好教育的少女便待在上流的社交聚会中娱乐大众。这就是艺妓文化的开端,而该文化是一种顺从的职业,对许多人而言最终可能意味着日本女性的独立。到了十九世纪中期,艺妓风格与时尚受到了经济宽裕的日本女性所仿效。艺妓这份行业持续蓬勃发展,一直到第二次世界大战爆发为止,当时突然大多数女性必须到工厂工作。这造成艺妓行业急剧衰退。战争结束后,日本接受了西方的许多作法,大多数的艺妓并未重操旧业。而那些重返艺妓行业的妇女都能够再度振兴并保有这项传统,不过她们要比以往更具独立性了。义务教育法有效地终结了传统的艺妓学徒制。许多曾在茶馆里学到经商技巧的妇女,最终都成了功成名就的企业家。他们为新一代的日本女性奠定了社会独立和经济自给自足的代表。





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The Art of Geishas|艺妓,技艺