Denison's Make-Up Guide for Amateur and Professional

19 April 2019
Denison's Make-Up Guide
Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection

This booklet puts on display the many stereotypes within America during the early 20 th century. Published in 1926, Denison’s guide was “written for the amateur actor and containing information of value to professionals in the art of making up for stage parts”. The ‘Chinese wig’ located on 68 of Denison’s guide shows a hairstyle referred to as the queue. Judging by Denison’s description, it appears this hairstyle and ‘The Chinaman’ character was used as a method of bringing about comedy. Denison emphasizes that the wig clings to the head and can also “stand a hard pull on the queue”. This hairstyle was a symbol of cultural identity for the Manchu people of China, which was then later imposed upon the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty. However, at the end of the dynasty in the early 20 th century and the beginning of the Republic, the hairstyle became a symbol of resistance. In this description, the hairstyle entirely loses its cultural weight and shows a stereotypical and outdated view of Chinese individuals. Furthermore, it overlooks the complicated history of the queue. The Denison’s guide is important as it draws attention to a misunderstanding and the generalization of not just one but many cultures.


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