Like the Chinese, Koreans revered flawless pale skin and believed it to be the epitome of female beauty—an aesthetic gold standard that remains today. Ancient Korean poets praised skin “like white jade,” and it was the Koreans who introduced the Japanese (around AD 600, when Korea began to trade with Japan and China) to the bleaching qualities of nightingale droppings, which have recently been adopted by Western beauticians to cleanse, soften, and whiten the skin. The droppings had originally been used to remove dye from silk in order to produce decorative patterns in cloth used for kimonos. Ingeniously, the Japanese combined the droppings with finely sieved bran flour to make a skin lightener that could be applied by patting a small cloth bag of the powder over the skin. White skin became highly fashionable in Japan during the Asuka period and continued into the Heian period (AD 794–1185) and beyond. In AD 692, a Buddhist priest made a lead-based whitener, which he presented to the delighted Empress Jito—though she may not have been quite so pleased had she realized the toxic preparation would eventually eat away her beautiful, unblemished skin. This period, the era of “peace and prosperity” was a high point of Japanese culture, when after several hundred years of cultural domination by China and Korea, the Japanese began to develop their own artistic and literary identity. Although trade with China continued, the imperial court decided to sever official relations and go it alone. With the long period of peace that ensued, aristocratic culture became highly refined, and exquisite taste became the most highly prized attribute of the sophisticated courtiers, both male and female. In the Heian court, a demanding but subtle rule of taste was the major regulator of aristocratic behavior, and negotiating these rules with skill was almost the only route by which an ambitious aristocrat might obtain a good reputation. Rejecting Chinese fashions, the ladies of the imperial household developed a new standard of beauty, in which the body was completely hidden under layers of luxurious silk robes, leaving their heavily whitened faces and necks as the focus of attention.