A Phoenix on Bedroom Pillows Picture

"England is a country living in the modern era, perhaps even ahead of it, yet China is a nation whose soul is firmly rooted thousands of years in the past. What I do — even pouring tea for you, as I am now — has its implications..."

Ever since the accession of the silk trade that linked the West to the East, Westerners have been trying to understand the Chinese for over a millennia. With over eleven thousand years of history, China is a land of intrigue and enchantment with an opulent and ancient culture, dating centuries before the creation of Western civilisation. Its polished elegance, delicate beauty, and rich lands have stunned visitors and became envy of kings, but underneath the dancing canopies of pink cherry blossoms, the splendidly coloured umbrellas, and the finely brocaded silks is a society whose precise, complex rules of cultural etiquette and ceremony, which must be dictatorially followed, and anyone in the contrary are merely barbarians — and nothing more.

Lady Silverson is as beautiful as she is enigmatic. Little is known about her parentage, birthplace, relations, childhood, or even her real name. Of course, there are many society rumours of her origins, but few facts. She is said to be the daughter of a scholar, as she is well-educated, but was placed into an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, at the age of thirteen, against her will, becoming the "Fifth Wife" (or "Fifth Lady") — whose social status is that of a concubine's — of later seven wives to a man she never knew. From then on, despite all the bright colours that adorn the inside walls, her whole world was reduced to one small, cheerless, ritual-saturated compound, which were beleaguered by deceit, manipulation, guile, and duplicity of her "sisters" to retain the husband's favours for power, status, and privileges. She came to avoid such "power games" and concentrated on her shan shui paintings of scenery and natural landscape of brush and ink, rather than more conventional paints, down as a vehicle of philosophy (such as feng shui).

Over a decade later, the household met the presence of gentleman from the West by the name of Mr. Julius Augustus Silverson, an art dealer who had an immense interest in rare Chinese antiquities, and conducted business with the wealthy landowner and made the acquaintance of his wives. Two years later, the Chinese landowner apparently died under "circumstances unknown," and about a year later, they married quietly and returned to England together where they appeared to live a happy life at his estate at Hampstead. However, multicultural marriages are looked down upon in English society, so one can only suppose her difficulty in adjusting to a foreign and more modern country. Nevertheless, during her time at England, she made a distinguished reputation as an artist under the title "Lady Silverson" for her fresh Euro-Asian style artwork. This was through art gallery expeditions organised by her second husband. Lady Silverson died during childbirth of their daughter, Lillian (now two years old), and her second husband never recovered from her death.


While she is known as "Lady Silverson," her husband is referred to as "Mr. Silverson", not a "Lord," and this requires a lot of explanation: He comes from a noble bloodline of Romanian conquerors (specifically the province of Wallacia) connected to the powerful House of Basarab, which ruled Wallacia (among others) for over four hundred years, but a civil war split up house into two — the House of Dan and the House of Dracul — and Silverson is a descendant of the latter house. At the time of his family's rule, their title was called a boyar, which means "chief" or "judge," but has no literal translation in traditional European entitlement. A boyar is not a "lord" or a "prince"; it is described as a landowner with wealth, serfs, and either a military/administrative/government function. Now, in the 1890s, near the end of the Victorian age, the boyars are gone, the voivodship is gone, serfdom was abolished, and the titled nobility has changed completely by the 18th century, as a result of the passing age, Silverson's family dwindled to "impoverished aristocrats," where he has inherited no title, no position, and no family wealth. He survived all on his own. His wife, however, is addressed as "Lady" — but Chinese ranks is really nothing like the European titles either. Nearly all nobles lost their titles when the Manchus erected their own rule, creating a new nine-rank system (compared to the previous twelve-rank). She married into a noble (landowning) family, which kept their title by bribing the Manchu rulers during the early Qing dynasty, becoming the Fifth Wife to her first husband (a Chinese man), thus is entitled to be properly addressed as "Fifth Lady." When she married Silverson, her title of peerage is not transferable. He cannot earn the title because (1) he has no given title or position, (2) he's a foreigner, and (3) she is a higher rank than he is (in Chinese standards). Therefore, he is only "Mr. Silverson" and she is "Lady Silverson". (Also, no one can pronounce her Chinese name properly in London.)

For the first time, in ten years, I am going to reveal Lady Silverson's real name! Her name is Huang (pronounced "w-ah-ng"), which comes from the word feng huang, which means "phoenix." The feng huang is the known as the mythological personification of the primordial force of the heavens. It is described to have the head of a golden pheasant, the body of a mandarin duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane, the mouth of a parrot, and the wings of a swallow. Its body symbolizes the six celestial bodies — the head is the sky, the eyes are the sun, the back is the moon, the wings are the wind, the feet are the earth, and the tail is the planets — and that the body each represent a word — the head represents virtue, the wing represents duty the back represents propriety, the abdomen says belief, and the chest represents mercy. Its feathers contain the five sacred colors — black, white, red, blue and yellow. The name of the feng huang, like many Chinese names for the celestial creatures, is a meshing of the male name (feng) and the female name (huang). Feng represents yang, the solar cycle, and the protector of the emperor; huang represents yin, the lunar cycle, and is a symbol of the Chinese empress. It is also a symbol of virtue, grace, peace, prosperity, harmony, beauty, resurrection, immortality, and rising above adversity. Silverson affectionately refers to his wife (as a type of pet-name) as "phoenix," while she refers to him as "dragon." The dragon-phoenix combination is a ultimate symbol of everlasting love and marital happiness between husband and wife — another yin-and-yang metaphor.

Models - Gong Li

Medium - Col-erase red.

Lady Silverson © Diane N. Tran.
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