This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
Various are the opinions and customs of mankind with respect to Female Beauty and Ornaments, - as will be perceived from the following prejudices of different nations.
The ladies in Japan gild their teeth; and those of the Indies paint them red. The blackest teeth are esteemed the most beautiful in Guzerat, and in some parts of America. In Greenland the women colour their faces with blue and yellow; and a Muscovite lady would consider her beauty incomplete, unless she were plastered over with paint, however prodigal nature may have been in her gifts. The Chinese must have their feet as diminutive as those of the she-goats, and to ren-der them thus, their youth is passed in tortures. In ancient Persia, an aquiline nose was often thought worthy of the crown; and if there was any competition between two princes, the people generally went by this criterion of majesty. In some countries, the mothes break the noses of their children; and others press the head between two boards, that it may become square. The modern Persians have a strong aversion to red hair: the Turks, on the contrary, are warm admirers of it. The Indian beauty is thickly smeared with bear's fat; while the female Hottentot regrets not the absence of silks and wreaths of flowers, if she can but receive from the hand of her lover the warm entrails and reeking tripe of animals he has just slaughtered, that she may deck herself with these enviable ornaments.
In China, small eyes are liked; and the girls are continually plucking their eyebrows, that they may be small and long. The Turkish women dip a gold brush in the tincture of a black drug, which they pass over their eyebrows. This is too visible by day, but it looks shining by night. They also tinge their nails with a rose colour.
An ornament for the nose appears to us perfectly unnecessary. The Peruvians, however, think otherwise; and they hang on it a weighty ring, the thickness of which is regulated by the rank of their husbands. The custom of boring the nose, as our ladies do their ears, is very common in several nations. Through the perforation are hung various materials; such as green crystal, gold, stones, a single and sometimes a great number of gold rings, which become at times rather troublesome to them.
The female head-dress is carried in some countries to singular extravagance. The Chinese fair carries on her head the figure of a certain bird. This bad is composed of copper or of gold, according to the quality of the person: the wings spread out, fall over the front of the head-dress, and conceal the temples; the tail, long and open, forms a beautiful tuft of feathers; the beak covers the top of the nose; the neck is fastened to the body of the artificial animal by a spring, that it may the more freely play, and tremble at the slightest motion.
The extravagance of the Myantses is far more ridiculous than the above. They carry on their heads a slight board, rather longer than the foot, and about six inches broad: with this they cover their hair, and seal it with wax. They cannot lie down, nor lean, without keeping the neck very straight; and the country being very woody, it is not uncommon to find them with their head-dress entangled in the trees. Whenever they comb their hair, they pass an hour by the fire in melting the wax; but this combing is only performed once or twice a year.
To this curious account, extracted from Duhalde, we must join that of the inhabitants of the land of Natal. They wear caps or bonnets, from six to ten inches high, composed of the fat of oxen. They then gradually anoint the head with a purer grease, which mixing with the hair, fastens these bonnets for their lives.