Queue (hairstyle)

Queue (hairstyle)
Queue (hairstyle)
Elderly Chinese American Man with Queue.close crop.jpg
Chinese American man with queue in San Francisco's Chinatown
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 辮子
Simplified Chinese 辫子
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 頭鬃尾 or 毛尾仔
Manchu name
Manchu Soncoho.png (soncoho)

The queue or cue is a hairstyle in which the hair is worn long and gathered up into a ponytail. It was worn traditionally by certain Native American groups and the Manchu of Manchuria.


Manchu Queue

A European artist's conception of a Manchu warrior in China - surprisingly, holding the severed head of an enemy by its queue (which, actually, looks more like a Ukrainian Cossack oseledets). Later historians noted this as an inconsistency in the picture. (From the cover of Martino Martini's Regni Sinensis a Tartari devastati enarratio, 1661)

The queue was a specific male hairstyle worn by the Manchus from central Manchuria and later imposed on the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty.[1][2][3] The hairstyle consisted of the hair on the front of the head being shaved off above the temples every ten days and the rest of the hair braided into a long ponytail.[4]

The hairstyle was compulsory on all males and the penalty for not having it was execution as it was considered treason. In the early 1910s, after the fall of the Qing dynasty, the Chinese no longer had to wear it. Some, such as Zhang Xun, still did as a tradition, but most of them abandoned it after the last Emperor of China Puyi cut his queue in 1922.[5]

Manchu tradition

The Manchu hairstyle was forcefully introduced to Han Chinese by Nurhaci in the early 17th century. Nurhaci achieved the creation of Aisin Gioro dynasty, later becoming the Qing Dynasty of China, after having defeated the Ming forces in southern Manchuria. Once firmly in power, Nurhaci commanded all men in the areas he had conquered to adopt the Manchu hairstyle.

The Manchu hairstyle was significant because it was a symbol of Ming Chinese submission to Qing rule. The queue also aided the Manchus in identifying those Chinese who refused to accept Qing dynasty domination.

Queue Order (1645)

Chinese circus performers soon after the Manchu conquest, wearing queues. (Drawing by Johan Nieuhof, 1655-57)

The Queue Order (simplified Chinese: 剃发令; traditional Chinese: 剃髮令; pinyin: tìfàlìng), or tonsure decree, was a series of laws violently imposed by the Qing (Manchu) dynasty in the seventeenth century. It was also imposed on Taiwanese aborigines in 1753 and Korean people in the late 19th century,[6][7] [8][9], though the Ryukyuan people, whose kingdom was a tributary of China, requested and were granted an exemption from the mandate.

Traditionally, adult Han Chinese did not cut their hair. According to the Classic of Filial Piety, Confucius said

We are given our body, skin and hair from our parents; which we ought not to damage. This idea is the quintessence of filial duty. (身體髮膚,受之父母,不敢毀傷,孝至始也。)[10]

As a result of this ideology both men and women wound their hair into a bun or other various hairstyles. Manchu men, on the other hand, shaved their foreheads, leaving a long tail (traditionally called "queue" in English).

A soldier during the Boxer Rebellion with queue and conical Asian hat

In 1644 Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a minor Ming Dynasty official turned leader of the peasant revolt. The last Ming Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide when the city fell, marking the official end of the dynasty. The Manchus then allied with Ming Dynasty general Wu Sangui and seized control of Beijing and overthrew Li's short-lived Shun Dynasty. Then they forced Han Chinese to adopt the queue as a sign of submission.[11]

A year later, after the Manchus had reached South China, Dorgon imposed the Queue Order for all Han Chinese, giving the Han Chinese 10 days to shave their hair into a queue, or face death. Although Dorgon admitted that followers of Confucianism might have grounds for objection, most Han officials had instead cited the Ming Dynasty's traditional System of Rites and Music as their reason for resistance. This led Dorgon to question their motives: "If officials say that people should not respect our Rites and Music, but rather follow those of the Ming, what can be their true intentions?"[12]

The slogan adopted by the Qing was "Keep your hair and lose your head, or keep your head and cut your hair" (Chinese: ; pinyin: liú liú tóu, liú tóu liú ).[13] The Han Chinese people resisted the order and the Manchu rulers struck back with deadly force, massacring all who refused to shave their hair. Rebels in Shangdong tortured to death the official who suggested the queue order to Dorgon and killed his relatives.[14]

The three massacres at Jiading is one of the most infamous massacres, with estimated death tolls in the tens (or even hundreds) of thousands.[15] The imposition of this order was not uniform; it took up to 10 years of martial enforcement for all of China to be brought into compliance.

Since the Qing Dynasty grouped Muslims by language, they grouped the Han Hui (currently known as Hui people) with Han chinese since both of them spoke Chinese, and made them wear the queue. Turkic Muslims like the Chanto Hui (Uyghurs) and Sala Hui (Salars) did not have to wear the queue.[16]

However, after an invasion of Kashgar by Jahangir Khoja, Turkistani Muslim begs and officials in Xinjiang eagerly fought for the "privilege" of wearing a queue to show their steadfast loyalty to the Empire. High ranking begs were granted this right.[17]

The purpose of the Queue Order was to demonstrate loyalty to the Qing and, conversely, growing one's hair came to symbolize revolutionary ideals, such as during the White Lotus Rebellion. Taiping Rebellion being called the Long hairs (長毛) or Hair rebels (髮逆).[18]

Resistance to the queue

Han Chinese resistance to adopting the queue was widespread and bloody. The Chinese in Liaodong rebelled in 1622 and 1625 in response to the implementation of the mandatory hairstyle. The Manchus responded swiftly to this rebellion by killing the educated elite and instituting a stricter separation between Han Chinese and Manchus.[19]

In 1645, the adoption of the queue was taken a step further by the ruling Manchus when it was decreed that any man who did not adopt the Manchu hairstyle within ten days would be executed. The intellectual Lu Xun summed up the Chinese reaction to the implementation of the mandatory Manchu hairstyle by stating, "In fact, the Chinese people in those days revolted not because the country was on the verge of ruin, but because they had to wear queues." In 1683 Zheng Keshuang surrendered and queued.[20]

The queue became a symbol of the Qing Dynasty and a custom except among Buddhist monastics.[21][22][23] Some revolutionists, supporters of the Hundred Days' Reform or students who studied abroad cut their braids. The Xinhai Revolution in 1911 led to a complete change in hairstyle almost overnight. The queue became unpopular as it became associated with a fallen government, depicted in, Lu Xun's short story Storm in a Teacup. Chinese citizens in Hong Kong changed to short haircuts collectively.[24]

Other Queues

Curley Bear with queued hair.
  • British soldiers and sailors during the 18th century wore their hair in a style known as the queue. While not braided, the hair was similarly pulled back very tight into a single tail, but was wrapped around a piece of leather and tied down with a ribbon. The hair was also often greased and powdered in a fashion similar to powdered wigs, or tarred in the case of sailors.

See also


  1. ^ 宋金时代的“留发不留头”
  2. ^ 身体的争夺与展示
  3. ^ 中國的髮爪與接觸巫術
  4. ^ 剃头的故事晚清出国人员生活小记
  5. ^ 彻底改变两百年官定习俗 民国初年剪辫轶话
  6. ^ 清朝乾隆23年清政府令平埔族人學清俗
  7. ^ 清朝之剃髮結辮
  8. ^ On Qing Government's Land Policy towards Chaoxian Reclamation People of Break Probibition
  9. ^ 论清朝对图们江以北朝鲜垦民的“薙发易服”政策
  10. ^ De Bary, William T. (1999). Sources of Chinese Tradition. Columbia University Press. p. 326. 
  11. ^ Kuhn, Philip A. (1990). Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768. Harvard University Press. pp. 53–54. 
  12. ^ Kuhn, Philip A. (1990). Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768. Harvard University Press. pp. 53–54. 
  13. ^ Chee Kiong Tong, et al. (2001). Alternate Identities: The Chinese of Contemporary Thailand. Brill Publishers. p. 44. ISBN 9789812101426. http://books.google.com/books?id=I4-PA0PjnPQC&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=%22keep+your+hair+and+lose+your+head%22&source=web&ots=9enxEiifLL&sig=3Et7Xh2NY_W6PbdEBDCxHLYTKdM#PPA44,M1. 
  14. ^ 研堂見聞雜記
  15. ^ Ebrey, Patricia (1993). Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. Simon and Schuster. p. 271. 
  16. ^ Morris Rossabi (2005). Governing China's Multiethnic Frontiers. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295984120. p. 22
  17. ^ James A. Millward (1998). Beyond the pass: economy, ethnicity, and empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759-1864. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804729336. p. 204
  18. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf et al. (1998). Hair: Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures. State University of New York Press. p. 128. 
  19. ^ 鄭氏王朝的滅亡
  20. ^ 鄭氏王朝的滅亡
  21. ^ “cutting tail”reflected the jiang nan social in guang xu dynasty two years
  22. ^ 清代妖术恐慌及政府的对策:以两次剪辫谣言为例
  23. ^ 頭可斷辮子不可剪 清朝留學生剪辮=偷了情
  24. ^ Wiltshire, Trea. [First published 1987] (republished & reduced 2003). Old Hong Kong - Volume One. Central, Hong Kong: Text Form Asia books Ltd. ISBN Volume One 962-7283-59-2
  • Also mentioned in "Dragonwings", by Laurence Yep, Chapter 4

Further reading

  • Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm: China in Tigers' Jaws - By Struve, Lynn A. Publisher:Yale University Press, 1998 (ISBN 0300075537, 9780300075533) (312 pages)

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