By: Khuzairi M. Pangestu
Mentor : Lili Samrotul Karimah
Asian cultures always serve a lot of unique entertainments. It makes all country on Asia continent looks fascinating. Huge amounts of feasts, beverages, dances, music, places, and also the entertainer, are the exciting attractions while travelling around there. However, I am only curious about these iconic feminists which are represent their country uniqueness. There are so many different names for the female entertainer in Asia, for Chinese female entertainer they called them chi-nu, Indian deva dasi, Arabic quiana, etc. East Asian female entertainers are more famous and more often heard by our ears. They are Japanese professional entertainer Geisha and Korean Gisaeng (kisaeng). Unfortunately, people commonly associate female entertainer with granting “sexual desire” as their main “dishes”. When I did some quick questions to their fans, I got some worse words that judge them as a slut. Do they tend to look like a slut than an entertainer? This question means something to me. I look further about them in many resources, then I found some facts about them, even their fans do not know.
East Asian female entertainer such as Geisha and Gisaeng always labeled as an exotics slut. But wait, is that 100% true? Why they do that? Check this out!
Tokugawa period (1600-1868) is where the Geisha started in historically exist. Geisha in Japanese language means artist or traditional entertainer. Women who choose to live as a Geisha will get a caste as an executive in Eta and Hinin (equal to slave caste). This social position would consider as non-human thing, but they aren’t a concubine. They serve guests with art performance and always keep their manner to costumer who rent their service.
Do you know? The first Geisha were men (Houkan or Taikomochi) who entertained at parties in Yoshiwara, the famous “pleasure quarter” in the shogunal capital of Edo (now Tokyo). Then Japanese women in mid-eighteen centuries borrowed the Geisha title for performing in the parties. Female-Geisha soon to be popular than Male-Geisha. They title now only refer to the female.
The school of Geisha started from 18th century in a place called Hanamachi. There were involved tea houses, crafts, men-ya (noodle shop) and Okiya (place where the Geisha lived). Okamisan who holds the Okiya to develop Tamago and Maiko. Tamago means egg to mark their learning level and they were taken from houses in various age. They watch how Geisha and Maiko work. When they achieved 17, they could be a Maiko (the trainee Geisha) and they start hard training. Maiko are famous with their hairstyle, make up, and red lip (Maiko only use red lipstick on their lower lip). And they were using their traditional clothes such as kimono and obi with different style. After Maiko already finished the training, in about 20, they got a Mizuage ceremony that included Erikae. This Erikae means to flipping collar and this ceremony refers to how their clothes change from Maiko to Geisha. Before modern era, they have an auction ceremony for their virginity, then it banned in 1959.
The western world created confusion of the act of Geisha and courtesans. They Mixed both together, the nighttime entertainment performs of Geisha, Oiran (in Edo), and Tayu (in Kyoto) could only direct the mind to think “sex” for westerner. Hollywood movie such as “Memoirs of a Geisha” failed to describe about them. I think this movie create worse image of Geisha, who in fact translated as “arts person”. They are different from Oiran. Makiko Itoh wrote in Quora for clarify the difference between Oiran, Yuujo, and Geisha. The courtesan of Edo era was an Oiran who highly appreciated by Japanese people. And Yuujo is the regular prostitute in Yoshiwara. Although not primarily prostitutes, some Geisha slept with clients and many “successfully” retired by becoming the mistress of a client.
In Kyoto today, there are about 67 Maikos and 177 Geikos (Geishas), according to the city tourism officials who promote the five districts called Kagai where these entertainers live and work. Seeing a Geisha performing will costs as much as $2000 in traditional tea house. And it’s so exclusive, the guest must be invited by the member of the tea house. And if we want to make a dinner with a Maiko, it starting from $150 at least with seven guests in the group.
Now, We Know that Geisha’s genuine duty is only for entertaining guests with art performance. People’s argument about Geisha that they generally did sleep with the client is actually wrong. Geisha did sleep with them if both agreed to have a marriage. Then Geisha became a mistrees. How about Gisaeng? This Korean female entertainer sometimes performs in some Korean dramas. But do you know who they really are?
Gisaeng lived in Goeryo Dynasty (918 – 1392) and Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). Even no theory can perfectly explain the origin of all Gisaeng, the ancient documents and some journals would probably give us some clues for Korean history of Gisaeng. The evidence that some types of Gisaeng was in existence during the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C. to 668 A.D.) stated in Chinese documents. Goeryo Dynasty Gisaeng danced and sang at court banquets and festivals. Gisaeng was a descendant status, they got this title by their parent’s caste. when they were young, they absolutely a pure Gisaeng.
From 1401 to 1418 the King T’aejong ordered to control the management of Gisaeng in their duties, status and specified training. Then their noble title and rank were banned. In 1406 the manager trained Gisaeng to have abilities in maintaining medicine and other significant job due to their status as an entertainer. When they married with their husband called with kibu. By the end of nineteenth century, kibu become pimps of Gisaeng. Gisaeng became a slut because of their husband.
In Yi Dynasty, Gisaeng was divided into three classes by the government; Ilp’ae (first grade) who continue the true Gisaeng jobs and was allowed to sit on sedan chairs to shows their position; Ip’ae (second grade), the former of Ilp’ae and nicknamed un’gunja literary means “women of dunious respectability”; and the Samp’ae (third grade) who got the real slut’s duties and was only allowed by the rule to sing a folksong while they were entertaining.
Year 1910 when the Yi dynasty got an invasion from Japan, the tradition of Gisaeng was changed dramatically. The Three Divisions of Gisaeng were merged as a slut Gisaeng by the goverment. Thousands of Korean Gisaengs brought to the warfare to be “special forces”. This force has a duty to make sure the Japanese soldier isn’t lack of sexual needs.
And what happened with today Gisaeng? The descendant of the Bureau of Yi Dynasty Music has trained musicians and dancers. Then they are hired by the government to performing art of Gisaeng. They are not called Gisaeng, but their title is “performer” or “researcher” that given by the Government.
The castes for Gisaeng and Invasion from Japan in world war directed them to be judged as a slut. Gisaeng was almost same with Geisha in job. They are performing arts for their Guests.
We can compare fans statement to several paragraphs above. Now we can explain to people who are innocent in Japanese and Korean culture and especially to the fans what is Geisha and Gisaeng real job. Although, not all the fans think that the Geisha and Gisaeng is a slut, we must clarify that Geisha or Gisaeng duty is entertaining the guest with music instrument, dance, and other art performance. There are many castes divided by the governor of Geisha and Gisaeng, but the truth tells that the mother job of this is not as immoral as people think. The Citizens in the past time made a mistake then people now label them as a traditional slut. Once after we know this, we must define Geisha and Gisaeng as an artist, not a street hooker.