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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Loutea 老爺

Just a whimsical street portrait of two costumed revelers at the Venice Carnevale.

The theme for the Venice Carnevale 2024 is "Ad Oriente. The amazing journey of Marco Polo”, so many people come with chinoiserie kind of costumes.

Chinoiserie is the European interpretation and imitation of Chinese and other East Asian artistic traditions, especially in the decorative arts, garden design, architecture, literature, theatre, and music.  The aesthetic of chinoiserie has been expressed in different ways depending on the region.

These two ladies are dressed in costumes depicting Chinese Mandarins.

A mandarin was a bureaucrat scholar in the history of China, Korea and Vietnam.

The term is generally applied to the officials appointed through the imperial examination system; it sometimes includes the eunuchs also involved in the governance of the above realms.

In the 16th century, before the term mandarin became widespread in the European languages, the word Loutea (with various spelling variations) was often used in Europeans' travel reports to refer to Chinese scholar-officials. It is frequently used, for example, in Galeote Pereira's account of his experiences in China in 1548–1553, which was published in Europe in 1565, or (as Louthia) in Gaspar da Cruz' Treatise of China (1569). C. R. Boxer says the word comes from the Chinese 老爷 (Mandarin Pinyin: lǎoye; Amoy dialect: ló-tia; Quanzhou dialect: lāu-tia), which was commonly used by people in China to address officials. This is also the main term used to refer to the scholar-officials in Juan González de Mendoza's History of the Great and Mighty Kingdom of China and the Situation Thereof (1585), which heavily drew (directly or indirectly) on Pereira's report and Gaspar da Cruz' book and which was the Europeans' standard reference on China in the late 16th century.

Sometimes, street portraits of local Italians celebrating the Carnevale can be quite interesting. Their lightly white painted faces throws off the light nicely. For this two, their purple costumes stand out clearly against the plain background, which is actually a piece of canvas used to board up a building undergoing renovations.

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