The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Queue / Pigtail

Queue / PigtailIn 1621 the Chinese sent several armies to recover Moukden; but they met with no success, and the Manchu commander Noorhachu made it the base of his plan of attack on Leaouyang, the capital of the province. The defence of this important town was entrusted to Yuen Yingtai, the Court favourite and incompetent successor of Tingbi. That officer, unwarned by the past, and regardless of the experience of so many of his predecessors, weakened himself and invited defeat by attempting to oppose the Manchus in the open. He was defeated, losing some of his best soldiers, and compelled to shut himself up in the town with a disheartened garrison. The Manchus gave it no time to recover the confidence it had lost, and, by either treachery within the walls or skilful engineering, making a road across the moat, gained an entrance into the city. Then a terrible encounter took place. The garrison was massacred to a man, Yuen Yingtai, brave, if incapable, committed suicide.

Those of the townspeople who wished to save their lives had to shave their heads in token of subjection. This is the first historical reference to a practice that is now universal throughout China, and that has become what may be called a national characteristic. The badge of conquest has changed to a mark of national pride; but it is strange to find that the Chinese themselves and the most patient inquirers among sinologues are unable to say what was the origin of the pig-tail. They could not tell whether shaving the head was the national custom of the Manchus, or whether Noorhachu only conceived this happy idea of distinguishing those who surrendered to his power among the countless millions of the long-haired people of China.

It might be thought that, if the former were the case, it would have been the custom of the Kin rulers; but no record can be found of any such practice among the annals of that dynasty. This may be due to the fact that the Kins were not a literary race, and that the Chinese chroniclers, who alone recorded their history, had not the necessary information or interest in a foreign race to publish the details of their Court ceremonial and national customs: for it must be remembered that the Kins, although rulers of a great part of China, were not national or popular sovereigns like their contemporaries the Sungs. All that can be said of the origin of the pig-tail is that it was first enforced as a badge of subjugation by the Manchus at the siege of Leaouyang, and that thenceforward, until the whole of China was conquered, it was made the one condition of immunity from massacre.

Chinese men were forced to shave the front and top of their heads, and wear the rest of their hair in one long pigtail after the Manchus conquered China in the 1640s and founded the Ch'ing Dynasty. This was a Manchu tribal hairstyle, and was seen by the rulers of the new dynasty as Chinese acceptance of Manchu rule. When the Manchus gained control of China, they imposed the queue, or pigtail, upon the Chinese as a badge of vassalage. It is, perhaps, a remarkable proof of the supremacy of the Tartars that they should have felt themselves powerful enough very soon after their establishment at Peking to enforce this command on the whole of the male population. Under the previous Ming Dynasty the people wore a Top-knot similar to that of the Korean. Formerly Chinese men let their hair grow sufficiently long to gather it in a knot at the top. Some declared they would rather lose theirlife than sacrifice one hair of their head.

The Chinese queue was a sign of subjugation on the one hand ond of loyalty to the Government on the other. There is certainly nothing of manhood or of marriage and, as no religeous ideas connected with the Chinese queue as there is with the Korean Top-knot. Unlike the Korean, the Chinese boy is given a queue as soon as his hair glows long enough, and the queue is often artificially lengthened by the employment of silk thread, usually black in color.

The length and richness of the hair forming the plait rendered the term "pigtail" a misnomer in most cases. The Manchu costume is said to have been designed in imitation of the principal characteristics of the horse, the favourite animal of that people, the broad sleeves representing the hoofs, the queue the mane, etc., and it was this derived fashion which was imposed on all who wished to escape massacre when the Chinese Ming emperors were deposed.

The front part of the head is shaved. As no Chinese dress their own hair, barbers are numerous and do a thriving trade. A Chinese barber shop consisted of a high stool, the barber, a man to be shaved, and the whole business outdoors. First the barber ties up the man's queue in a knot high up on top of the head. The man does not lie back in a chair as in the West, but sits up straight on a stool. Then the barber goes ahead to shave him. His razor looks like a cross between a potato parer and a putty knife. The barber shaves the face, then the neck, then the scalp nearly as high up as the queue.

Although the Manchu dynasty had shown every reasonable honor both to the hereditary Duke Confucius and to the Grand Lama of Tibet, yet it takes good care to keep both of them strictly in their quasi-religious place. In 1645 one of the seniors of the family, who had held high office in the provinces, and who seems according to custom to have acted as spokesman in business matters, reported that "K'ung Yun-chih, with four generations of descendants, had duly paid visits to the ancestral temple, in order to report to the ancestral spirits the innovation of the Manchu pigtail; but that ever since the Han dynasty (b.c. 200), and so on up to the close of the Ming dynasty (a.d. 1644), the costumes of the Confucius family alone had remained unchanged during all dynastic vicissitudes. The question, therefore, arises, Does a change of attire accord in principle with the Emperor's exalted desire to honour Confucius? Is the Manchu queue ('pigtail') to be insisted upon or not?" The Emperor replied: "There is no question. The decree about shaving the head was strict; there was to be no pardon for recalcitrants. The present applicant has ipso facto incurred the penalty of death, which, however, is hereby remitted on account of his connection with the Sage. If the Sage had been living now, this disobedience to contemporary law would have been held even by himself to be an outrage upon the 'happy medium' principles inculcated by him. Let the applicant cease for ever to be officially employed." Thus the modernised Confucius has, like any other Chinese, to wear tight sleeves and a Manchu plaited pigtail.

The Taepings reverted to the old habit of simply wearing their hair long all over their heads, and were in consequence often spoken of as Chang-mows, or long-haired. By the time of the Boxer Rebellion, the queue had become a symbol of shame to the Boxers and Chinese nationalists in the late 19th century. The queue, or, as it is somewhat disrespectfully called, "the pigtail," had so long been an appendage of every male inhabitant of China that many Americans, and even some of the Chinese themselves, entertained the notion that when a Chinese man cut off his queue he was committing an act of treason. Despatches in the daily press which announced that large numbers of Chinese have been cutting off their queues therefore produced some astonishment. As a matter of fact, this queue-cutting was an indication not of diminishing but of increasing patriotism among the Chinese. Having been originally accepted by the Chinese because they could not help themselves, the queue became in their minds a badge of nationality which distinguished them from their Manchu rulers.

With the growth of Western ideas in China and the development of the national spirit came the determination to abandon the queue, both because it originated as a badge of servitude and because it interfered with the customs and manners of Western life, many of which the Chinese were beginning to adopt. Thus the queue-cutting which was going on among the Chinese had a real significance. A Japanese statesman, answering a friend who had expressed regret at the substitution of ugly European clothes for the beautiful Japanese costumes, said: "You forget that as long as we wore that costume we were certain to be treated as bric-a-brac; whereas we intend to be treated on a footing of full equality with Western nations, and our dress simply shows our intention."

A curious instance of correspondence between dress and inward intention was shown by the history of the Chinese army. A serious effort was begun to make the Chinese army efficient according to European standards. Naturally it has gone on by fits and starts. Whenever it has made progress it has always happened that the men at the head of it were men who had cut their "pigtails" and wore ordinary military clothes. Whenever there was appointed as head of the army a mandarin who adhered to the old Chinese garb, who wore a "pigtail," and who had long, polished finger-nails, the army instantly began to deteriorate and progress was stopped. European dress did not always mean that the reform went on, but the failure to wear it always meant that the reform had stopped.

The queue-cutting in China became universal, and before that it was being done on a sufficiently wide scale to indicate that China meant to become a nation in the Western sense of the word, the custom being abolished on the subversion of Manchu rule in 1912. The queue had in innumerable cases to be forcibly removed by the agents of the newly-inaugurated Republic. It was both interesting and amusing at the time to watch soldiers stationed at the ends of narrow streets, armed with blunt scissors, seize passers-by who had not obeyed the order and saw off their queues amid the victims' remonstrances and struggles. Thus the once-detested badge of defeat and servitude was only relinquished with great reluctance.

The Japanese Top-knot or queue had been almost entirely discarded in Japan by the late 19th Century. It was peculiar and unique in its way. The forehead was shaved a httle, the temples and the head on each side for some distance behind she temples were also shaved, and the hair was then brought up and twisted into a queue. The queue was wrapped with strings commencing at or a little behind the crown and being four or five inches long was laid flat along the middle of the bead, the end reaching the forehead and pointing out in front horizontally. It was small in diameter and they reminded some of a little twist of un-manufactured Kentucky tobacco. From the fact that it was so soon and so universally discarded, it was not highly regarded or had much hold on the people or was intimately associated with any traditional or religious custom or observance.

As the Japanese soldiers and policemen were put in Foreign costume the queue had of course to be discarded by them. Soon afterwards the head ministers and other high officials put away the queue and other officials soon followed. The Japanese people, alert and quick to adopt any sensible innovation, soon saw the disadvantages of their queue and thus, by example and reason and not by any positive enactment, the change wab brought about and the queue had fallen into a state of "innocuous desuetude" very much as the old continental queue did in America. The Japanese Government was far too wise to attempt to forcibly compel its subjects generally to give up their queue or to interfere with their dress or the management of their hair; this folly was reserved for Korea.

The Top-knot of the Korean was essentially different from a that of the Japanese or the queue of the Chinese and represented to him far more than these did to the others. The hair of a Korean boy or man up to the time be assumes his Top-knot is allowed to grow long, carefully parted in the middle of the head and, being drawn around behind, is secured in a single long pleat hanging down the back. If a Korean was so fortunate as to have a rank or literary degree, two small buttons, indicating his rank, were fastened to a ribbon, one behind each ear; he greatly prized these buttons and valued highly the honor and respect they confered upon and secured to him. In many cases an "ornament" of amber, tortoise-shell or horn, oval or cresent shaped, and about an inch aud a half across is fastened to the head-net in front of the head and regarded as quite ornamental and becoming. Over all comes the hat, a unique article in its way.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 20-11-2011 19:12:18 ZULU