Tradition of China — Hair Ornament Culture
Importance of Hair in Ancient Chinese Culture
In ancient Chinese culture, hair was considered an important part of the body; it was given by parents and couldn’t be cut casually.
When a boy turned 20 or a girl turned 15, their parents would hold them a Coming of Age Ceremony, in which they would change their hairstyle and hair ornaments. This had been one of the grandest rites in one’s lifetime, which represented a turning point of becoming an adult who is ready to take certain responsibilities.
In a Traditional Chinese Wedding, tying a strand of the new couple’s hair together was an important ceremony, meaning they would be connected forever.
In the former Polygamy society, only one’s wife was qualified to have this Bind Up of Hair Rite with her husband; other inferior concubines were not allowed to do so.
Therefore, in ancient Chinese history, cutting off a wisp of one’s hair and giving it to someone implied sincere love and willingness of commitment.
Hairpin — Zan in Chinese Culture
In the Neolithic era, Zan was used to fasten and tie hair. Since the disheveled hair was impolite and coarse in the ancient tradition of China.
Gradually, the use of hairpins became representative of being an adult.
When women turned 15 years old, there would be a Coming of Age Ceremony to put on hairpins and tie the hair up, meaning they were adults who were available for marriage.
Zan could be made of different materials such as bone, stone, pottery, shell, bamboo, timber, horn, jade, copper, silver, or gold.
The end of the hairpin was usually decorated with beautiful flowers or lucky animals.
Zan Cultural Relics
Double Stringed Hairpin — Chai
Chai was a type of hair ornament that evolved from Zan, which was also used to fasten and tie hair.
But the most important difference is that Chai has two sticks, which look like two Zans connected together.
Chai is frequently mentioned in poems and articles, for being an important symbol and a Keepsake of Love in Chinese Culture.
In Chinese tradition, when a couple had to separate for a while, women usually would split her Chai into two parts, and give one part to her beloved one as a keepsake, until they reunited someday.
Jade Chai of Sui Dynasty (589 — 619) — National Museum of China (By Dongmaiying)