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Huapi-painted skin by sarriathmoonghost Huapi-painted skin by sarriathmoonghost
Okay, let's see, where should I start...
This painted for my birthday (18th birthday, which means I'm finally an adult! yeeaah!), but I also want it to be my deviant ID.
Today, November 20th 2010, is October 15th on Chinese calendar. According to the solar calendar my birthday is on November 9th, but according to lunar calendar it is on the 15th of October.
Just like how the moon festival is on August 15th, October 15th is also a full moon's day, as to every other 15th in the lunar calendar. I remember when I was young I used to complain about how every other person's birthdays are on some special day while mine is just a normal date. But them my parents told me "but you were born on a full-moon's day!" and then I realized it's there must be a full moon in this picture somewhere. There just has to.

Now, this is actually an illustration from a famous tale which is taken from a collection written in the 1700s called "Liaozhai Zhiyi" or "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio", written by Pu Songling. Most of the stories in this collection have to do with demons, ghosts, fox demons, mystical beings, and goddesses. Many of these stories consist somehow of angst love stories between male human and female spirits. Using these stories, Pu made comments of the social structures of that time. Many of the stories consist of feminist theories just like in the Dream of the Red Chamber which was pretty abnormal at that time and therefore this collection become very popular even today.

This story is called "Huapi", or "Painted Skin", which is one of the most famous stories from the collection. You might even heard of it since it was made into a number of movies and series, including the recent 2008 version starring Zhou Xun and Zhao Wei ([link]).
Yet this story is not only about a love story. The whole story itself is a metaphor which directs to hideous and dark natures disguised under a gorgeous mask or skin, hence, the "painted skin".

Here the story goes:

There once was a scholar who was walking in the streets at dawn. He saw a beautiful girl about 16 years of age walking by herself with her packed belonging in her arms. He was very satisfied with her looks and realized something must be up.
So he walked close and asked her what was wrong, and she answered him that her parents made her marry a wealthy old man because he offered them goods and money. But the man had a wife, so the girl could only be his concubine, and the wife was jealous of her youth and beauty and constantly beat her. She could not take the beatings so she decided to run away.
The scholar asked where was she going to run away to, but she answered that she did not know. So he offered her to stay at his home.
The girl seemed really happy and followed him home. He hid her in the house in the very back of his home and locked the doors every time he left so that no one would know about his secret.

Ever since that the scholar and the girl spent times together and slept together. After a while the scholar's wife started to become aware of what was really going on. Although at that time it was normal to have a concubine after having a wife, the scholar's wife was still concerned because the girl's background was unknown and her husband was too numbed by the girl's beauty to suspect her. So the wife told her husband her concern, but he thought she was only jealous so he didn't give a damn.

One day the scholar was walking on the streets and a Taoist priest saw him. The priest suddenly noticed something was wrong. He told the scholar that he was possessed by a demon, but the scholar thought the priest was probably either crazy or just lying to him just so he can be paid to help him get rid of the demon. When the priest knew he didn't believe him he signed and walked away.

And then the scholar went home and noticed that the door of the girl's house was locked from the inside. He was curious so he climbed over the walls and peeked into her room. And there he saw the most horrifying thing in his life.

The girl was nowhere to be found. Instead there was a demon which long and sharp fangs crouching over the table with a brush in his hand. On the table there was a piece of skin which had every single feature of the beautiful girl's face on it. The demon was painting features on the skin to make it even more gorgeous. After it was done, the demon took the skin and put it onto him, wearing it like clothing, and then he turned into the girl.
The scholar was almost scared to death. He realized that it was not a beautiful girl whom he lured into his home, but actually a demon under a human skin. He ran to the streets and found the Taoist priest and begged him to help save his life. The priest gave him a horsetail whisk and told him to hang it in his home so that the demon will get scared and run off. But the priest didn't want to kill the demon, because it was a miserable creature, and he was pitiful

The scholar did what the priest told him, and the demon was scared off for a while, but then it forced its way into the house again, saying "how do I spit out something that I have already eaten?", and dug out the scholar's heart, and flew away.

The scholar's wife cried days and nights for the loss of her husband. She asked the priest if he could reviver her husband's life, but the priest said he was powerless and could not do anything. But he pointed her to another person who can help her. He told her that there was a crazy beggar on the street who was actually a wise man in a dirty disguise. He also told her that if the beggar insulted her she must endure it.

The wife went and found the beggar and saw that he was very dirty, with his saliva and mucus all over his body. Although he looked crazy and dirty she kneeled in front of him and begged him to revive her husband. The beggar said, "why do you ask me, am I a god?", and started beating her with his stick. There were people who wanted to stop him but the wife stopped them from doing so. After a while the beggar asked the woman to give him her hands then spat out his saliva onto her palms and asked her to eat them. Although it was very disgusting she remembered the priest's words and had no choid but to eat them and felt the saliva run down her throat like some kind of a solid substance and stayed down, but then the beggar just ran off laughing, without telling her the way to revive her husband.

The woman felt hope was lost. She went back to her home, preparing for her husband's burial. No one dared to even walk close to his body because his torso was opened up and all his inner organs could be seen, and it was too scary. The wife kneels beside the husband's body and started to cry. But suddenly she felt something in her throat that felt really disgusting, and she spat it out before she had a chance to turn away, and it fell right into the empty socket where her husband's heart used to be

The most unbelievable thing happened. When the woman looked into her husband's body she realized that it was a heart which she spat out. It was the beggar’s saliva which turned into a heart, and her husband was revived from the dead.

And that was how the story went.
When I first heard this story from my mom I just thought it was a normal ghost story which was only supposed to be scary. But after I’ve grown I realized the moral behind it.

“The faithless man’s heart is no more than the spit of a dirty beggar.”

The protagonist of this story is a jerk because he’d rather have the demon’s beauty than the true love of his wife. And the demon’s beauty is not even real. The demon is hideous; he just managed to disguise himself under a beautiful skin (probably of a beautiful girl whom it seek as a victom). This tale is told to lustful men who is drunken by outer beauties and might eventually kill themselves because of this.
And I think even today there are still too many people who cannot separate between “real beauty” and something which is merely a “painted skin”.
Add a Comment:
Temper-Tantrum Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I really hope you don't mind me saying, but this is just fantasmic. I mean, just wow! :iconmindblownplz:
jeffthekillar Featured By Owner May 4, 2014
this movie scares me
3greenfrog Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2012
wow! are all the details drawn seperately?
sarriathmoonghost Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2012
they are drawn on an overlay layer
IHeartInuyasha1322 Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2012
Amethyst1990 Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2011
I love the colors
hello-yes Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2011  Hobbyist
OMG why have I not known about this. The story was cool and the picture was awesome. So latecomer is late.
MonkeyWearsTie Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2011  Professional General Artist
This one is very good. Love both the composition and the execution.
25percent Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Your depiction of this tale is quite wonderful and you have related the legend well. I'm fast becoming a fan. ^_^
4164120003 Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
really so thats what painted skin means i always thought of it as like the skin is so beautiful that it looks like a painting hence 画皮 but i don't know i am a dumb ass anyway
see this is what i think about men taking a like to other people just base on their look,i think that everyone like pretty things right, if its pretty then people are gonna want it no matter if its an object or a person i just think that men are more openly to accept this fact than women and i am not so sure what excatly you ment by "real beauty" but i am just gonna assume that its your inner beauty and that is something that not too many people have the same value up on, at least not as much as outter beauty. so one might think that this person looks good but have a horrible personality and others might think this person's personality is not that bad at all or they just don't even care at all. so i really think that this is in our human nature to judge people/things by their look and it is ok.
sarriathmoonghost Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
it might help if you use punctuations once in a while XD
4164120003 Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
wha punctuations they are like so totally 5 minutes ago you gotta stay hip we gotta stay cool man so F!@#$ proper grammar lololololololol XD
sarriathmoonghost Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
yeah I hate grammar too but it's hard to read without punctuations
4164120003 Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
yeah i know eh my friend does that all the time on da,i know its kinda faster.....but not really i mean its just a couple more extra buttons,how long does it really take.but you know we are in a age of laziness now you'd be suprise to find out how far people would get just to be lazy,even my avatar was "lazy"(ha i love grammer puns lol)but judging from my life long experiance from reading lazy comments i've came to a conclusion,and that is punctuations ARE good for comments!cause they really gave life and excitments to your poorly thought comments,without them they just seem like a robot(which i like lol)rambling on and on, but i am a lazy person so i only use them for intense sentences XD
sarriathmoonghost Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
well getting too lazy is no good. One day we will become like the humans in Wall-e....
4164120003 Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2010
i WANT to become like the humans in wall-e they are so god damm cute >.< lolololololololol but i just can't get fat no matter how many stuff i eat i just won't get big damn it!
sarriathmoonghost Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2010
yet poor guy who can never become fat whatever he does XD
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