In 1911 Pigtails Were Banned in China

China Pigtails

Looking back at past perceptions of Chinese people one of the most recognizable features was that of a person in a pigtail. This image can be seen in many movies, television shows and cartoons throughout the twentieth century. I don’t know how many times I saw a cartoon character manage to dig through the center of the earth to find themselves in China confronted by a man in a straw hat with a goatee and pigtail. It was an image that many generations grew up recognizing. But the remarkable thing is that in 1911 pigtails were banned in China. So why would China ban something so simple as a haircut? The last time I checked they weren’t North Korea.

China’s ban on pigtails was not a fashion ban, but more of a political statement. Up until 1911 China was ruled by the imperial dynasty, the Qing dynasty. It was an absolute monarchy and all that changed in 1911 with the Hsin-hai Revolution, also known as the Chinese Revolution. And as is generally the nature of revolutions, changes in customs once related to the old regime soon become an outcast from the new society.

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