Friday, February 19, 2010
Lao is an ethnic group in South East Asia. The majority of the Lao live in Laos and in Thailand. In Thailand the Lao are concentrated to the Isan province even if many have immigrated to other areas such as Bangkok. The Lao speak different dialects of Lao and Isan languages which is often regarded as one language.
The peoples of Lao's history is recognized in conjunction with Laos and Isan's history. These two regions belonged to the same Kingdom called Lan Xang. Im 1778-1779 Lan Xang was invaded and concerned by Siam. The success of Siam was much due to their technical advantage on the battlefield. During the 17th century Lan Xang starts an uprising against Siam in their struggle for independence. As a consequence of this a forced migration of the Lan Xang to the other side of the Mekong to Isan took place. Many of the Lao found themselves as slaves under the Siam rule. This in turn made Laos a underpopulated region.
These is somewhat 3 million Lao in Laos and they compromise around 50% of the total population. The rest of the population is so called mountain peoples. The Lao in Laos is by large so called Lao Loum (Lowland Lao). The make up a third of the Thai population in Thailand with about 15 million people, of which 1 million live in Bangkok. There are other ethnic Lao people in central Thailand, but they have by large assimilated with the Thais. Minor pockets of Lao are also to be found in Cambodia, especially in Strung Treng which once belonged to Laos. An estimated 500.000 expatriate Lao's live around the world. Most of these expatriates left during and after the Vietnam war and of fear of the Pathet Lao (Lao Communist Party).
The Lao people speak Lao and Isan, two languages with different dialects. The dialect in Vientiane have become the dominant in Laos. A dominant dialect do not exist in Isan. The main differences in the dialects is more to do with the usage of Thai loan words.
Isan and Laos is a poor region due to poor soils and dry climate. Most people are self sufficient farmers and therefore there are few urban areas to be found. The inhabitants in Laos and Isan belong to the Theravada Buddhism. Food in the regions are similar with fish sauce, chilli, and rice being daily ingredients. Contemporary Lao cooking have been influenced by French and Vietnamese elements. The traditional music is called Mor lam.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Geisha (芸者), sometimes pronounced Geiko is a Japanese entertainer and artist. The word Geisha do literately mean "artist person".
The task of a Geisha is to entertain guests in different social gatherings, often in tea houses (Ocha ya). She must master singing, dancing, playing instruments, and perform the tea ceremony, write calligraphy, hold conversation. The Geisha is most often dressed in traditional Kimono.
The Geisha tradition originates from taikomochiand hōkan. In the beginning all Geishas were men, but today only a hand full of these men remains. The men are still referred to as taikomochi. Previously many children were sold into become a Geisha in order to give the family an extra income. This practise is now illegal.
The most well known Geisha areas, so called hanamachi (flower town) are found in Kyoto. At present there are five of these hanamachis in Kyoto. The largest and most known is Gion, where many internationally known geishas have lived and worked, for example Mineko Iwasaki.
Make up. In the beginning of a maikos career a heavy white make is worn all the time. As a young maiko her elder sister assists but as she gets older she have to learn herself. To put on the make up is a very time consuming process which also have to be done before the kimono is put on in order not to get make on it. At last the lips are painted.
Geishas and prostitution. One should know that geishas never sell sexual favours. This is a common misconception in the western world. This misconception gained momentum after WWII when American soldiers came home with stories of what they called Gee-sha Girls. These Gee-sha Girls were probably only common prostitutes dressed as geishas to attract customers, especially foreign customers.