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History of women’s hairstyles in ancient China

There are many interesting facts to learn about China’s beauty standards, which have evolved for many centuries to this day. One note-worthy topic most people aren’t aware of is that China used to enforce specific hairstyles on women depending on the nature of their social status.

Young and single women

In ancient China, young single women used to wear their hair down to show to the public that they were unmarried. Most maidens would keep their hair in braids until they reached the maturity age.

There is also a Hair Pinning Ceremony or Ji-li (笄禮), which every girl must go through on their 15th birthday. It is known by most as the coming-of-age ceremony where a ritual is performed to indicate that the girl has reached the eligible age for marriage. The ritual includes getting the girl’s hair washed, combed, and held together with a pin called Ji (笄).

Married women

When a Chinese woman gets married, she will be pre-occupied with the family’s household affairs. In ancient China, married women would wear their hair in an updo style, based on their current social status and the trend – varying from practical to extravagant.

Since hair gel or hair spray still wasn’t invented, to produce a sticky gel, Chinese women had to steeped strips of wood in hot water. They would combine the sticky gel with a metal wire to secure their hair in place.

Extravagant hairstyles were mostly seen during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.). where women wore intricate accessories such as wigs, jade pins, ornaments, and even fresh flowers.


Widowed women

In ancient China, it wasn’t common for people to cut their hair except for widowed women. To show the public their indifferences, widowed women would cut their hair and even go as far as to shave it off.


Household maids

Centuries ago, every Chinese household had maids to help out landowners in household affairs. Whether it was serving tea or cleaning rooms, these ladies had to be multitaskers to keep things running smoothly.

When it comes to hairstyle, it is required for the maids to keep it tied up and tucked back to focus on accomplishing their regular duties without any strands of hair going all over their faces.


Women performers

Ancient China was also very known for its lavish parties and festivals. Every celebration included live performers to bring life to the party.

For Chinese women performers, their hairstyles must also be tied updo to avoid getting it into their eyes. Strands of hair would distract them from performing their traditional routines and dances. Since most Chinese performances include delicate movements, hairstyles must also be kept firmly in place. At most times, they would also decorate it with hair accessories to show a vibrant and festive look.

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