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Everyday Life in Old China 06 (Public Domain)

A History of Hairpins and Hairdo’s of Ancient Women in Eastern Asia

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Confucian values in ancient China held that since one's hair is a gift from one's parents it is to be treated with utmost respect. This rule applies to men and women alike. Haircuts were therefore considered to be a serious filial offense against one's family and was only allowed under special circumstances such as giving a lock of one’s hair as a solemn vow to a lover or shaving one's head when joining a religious order. Prisoners were forced to have their hair cut and/or left to grow wild as a form of punishment as unkempt hair was a sign of illness, depression or dishonorable ways. On the other hand, long, shiny black hair was considered ideal as a sign of good health and vitality.

The Dahuting Tomb: A lady with a flowing long hairstyle of the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) (Public Domain)

The Dahuting Tomb: A lady with a flowing long hairstyle of the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) (Public Domain)

Of course, long hair leaves a lot of room for one’s imagination to run free.  A thousand years ago, Asian ladies’ hairstyles in particular communicated a language all of their own, sending silent messages to the world to behold. Ancient women from Eastern Asia have worn various hairstyles throughout different historical eras, with slight alterations to indicate different stages of their lives. In the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), women used to tie their hair in loose buns and allowed some loose strands to cascade down their backs. Between the seventh and 19th centuries, Japanese elite noblewomen affiliated with ruling families, had intricate and arranged wax, combs, ribbons, hair picks, and flowers hairstyles. The women of Korea wore several hairstyles that dated back to before the Joseon Dynasty depending on their age, social status and location of abode.

Coming of Age Ji-Li ceremony for Chinese girls (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Coming of Age Ji-Li ceremony for Chinese girls (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tying the Knots in China

Young women in ancient China wore their hair down, or in simple styles, to show that they were unmarried. Traditionally, unmarried girls would keep their hair in braids until their 15th birthday when they attended a ji-li or hair pinning ceremony. During the ritual, the girl's hair was washed and combed into a twist before being held together with a pin called a ji.


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Martini Fisher is a Mythographer and author of many books, including "Time Maps: Matriarchy and the Goddess Culture”  | Check out

Top Image: Everyday Life in Old China 06 (Public Domain)

By Martini Fisher

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Martini Fisher comes from a family of history and culture buffs. She graduated from Macquarie University, Australia, with a degree in Ancient History. Although her interest in history is diverse, Martini is especially interested in  mythologies, folklores and ancient funerary... Read More

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