They are unique and captivating. They are also, surprisingly, controversial proving that debate over female beauty, particularly as it relates to weight, is anything but a modern issue. The series of earthernware female figures are part of an exhibition of Tang Dynasty treasures excavated near” Xi’an, China, dating back more than 1000 years. Although particularly notable for their extravagant, sometimes multiple, chignons, it’s their apparent “plumpness” (the official description) that has been the cause of comment.
“There have been two specious claims about the female image in the Tang dynasty: that women tended to expose their cleavage and that society considered plumpness as the main form of beauty,” says the official brochure to the exhibition currently on display in Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales, continuing. “… both are subjective misconceptions that result from
Flood of Fire, the final part of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy is set between 1839 and 1841 and it would have been easy to have got the reader lost in the rich historical events that were unfolding during that period; the growing tensions between China and British-ruled India over the opium trade that eventually triggered war, the eventual seizure of Hong Kong and what Beijing saw as its humiliating defeat.
But Ghosh’s literary world is populated by such a gallery of diverse and vivid characters that it is they who capture the reader. Some will be remembered from his first two books, Sea of Poppies about opium production and River of Smoke about the opium ship Anahita travelling to Canton in China. However, while Flood of Fire provides continuity it is equally enthralling as a stand-alone book.
The story unfolds through the lives of three main characters: Zachary Reid,