Chinese hairstyles have a long history throughout the dynasties. The Ancient Chinese, in the Pre-Qing dynasty, did not cut their hair, as they found it to be as highly valued, as much as the body was, and was valued as a symbol of self respect. They didn’t cut their hair as it was considered as a form of mutilation, as our body and our hair were given to us by our parents, and thus would be a sign of disrespect. Sinners were punished by shaving their hair and beards, which was considered worse than the death penalty.
Hair also symbolised marriage status, ethnicity, class and political alignment. Unmarried women wore their hair down and in a braid. Long, black hair was also desirable. Women could only wear their hair up once they are married. Men wore a topknot with a square cloth when they came of age.
Social status was also shown through hair, especially through the Tang Dynasty, when lots of new hairstyles were produced. Hair ornaments and accessories including that of hair pins or clasps would also show someones’ social status. Patterns, craftsmanship, materials and number of hair ornaments reveals this further.
Those in the Han dynasty often wore their hair bound, whereas other ethnic groups have long and dishevelled hair, thus the Chinese were able to notice who were in the ethnic minority groups.
This was all true until the Qing Dynasty, whereupon people then had to follow a new set of rules for their hair that was completely different to before. For young girls and young women, they wore a single ponytail behind them and wound the end with a red cord and arranged the front of their hair into bangs. Married women, on the other hand, wore their hair in a bun and fastened it with ornaments. For the men, they went completely against the previous beliefs as they were informed to shave the front part of their hair, and then braid the rest of their hair at the back. If you did not follow this as a man, you were executed for treason. However, this changed overnight as everything to do with the Qing Dynasty was considered supporting a fallen government, which has led to new Chinese hairstyles which have no particular meaning.
“Keep your hair, loose your head. Keep your head, loose your hair.”
Many of the current tutorials such as the Chinese Princess Hair Tutorial on YouTube are some of the only ways that the information is passed through other cultures of this ancient tradition.