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Ming dynasty portrait of officials wearing wushamao烏紗帽)and robes with mandarin squares

Futou (襆頭), also known as putou (幞頭), is a Chinese form of hat which was typically worn by government officials.[1] The futou was originally a turban; when the turban was tied at the back of its wearer's head, the two corners would go to the opposite directions thus acting as decorations.[2] With time, the futou came to assume a variety of shapes and styles.[3]


The term putou means "head scarf" or "head-cloth".[3]


Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern dynasties[edit]

The putou was originally a turban-like headgear; it first appeared in the 3rd century AD and was based on the headdress of a northern tribe.[3] It is also proposed that putou may have been developed from hats worn in ancient Central Asia and was brought in by the Turks from Sogdiana to Tokharistan to China.[4]

In Northern Zhou, Emperor Wu wrapped his head with a futou, which consisted of 4 ribbons, 2 of which were tied at the back and left hanging down, while the other 2 were tied at the top of the head.[5]

Tang dynasty[edit]

By the Tang dynasty, the futou developed and a ribbon was attached to each corner of the turban; by adding wire or silk strings inside the ribbon, the futou could take different shapes and styles depending on the its wearer's liking.[2]

Ruanjiao putou[edit]

There was a type of putou called ruanjiao putou (軟脚幞頭; "putou with soft legs"), also known as zheshang jin (折上巾; "kerchief folded upward), which consisted of piece of cloth wrap around the head; the two ends of the fabric were then tied at the back at either side of the neck and were then wrapped around the head before being together above the forehead.[3] Sometimes, 2 or 4 narrow and long ribbons were tied to the back of the putou and were allowed to hang down freely down the back of its wearer.[3]

Song dynasty[edit]

During the Song dynasty, all classes of people ranging from commoners to emperors wore futou.[6]

There were 5 types of futou: "straight-feet" futou (also called "flat-feet") which was worn by people of all social classes; "bent-feet" futou, "cross-feet" futou, "upward" futou and "downwind" futou.[6] The term "feet" is used to describe the hard ribbons used in the futou.[6]

Ming dynasty[edit]

Zhanchi Futou[edit]

Zhanchi Futou (展翅襆頭) or Zhanchi Putou, also known as the wushamao (烏紗帽), is the headwear of Ming dynasty officials, consisting of a black hat with two wing-like flaps of thin, oval shaped boards on each side. According to the Collected Statutes of the Ming Dynasty (大明會典), ordinary citizens are not allowed to wear this headdress unless attending wedding ceremonies or events involving any noble families/officials. In modern China, wushamao is commonly used as a metaphor for officials and government posts. The Zhanchi Futou was also adopted by neighbouring countries.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dale R. Johnson (2020). A Glossary of Words and Phrases in the Oral Performing and Dramatic Literatures of the Jin, Yuan, and Ming. University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-472-03823-7. OCLC 1229843176.
  2. ^ a b Zang, Yingchun; 臧迎春. (2003). Zhongguo chuan tong fu shi. 李竹润., 王德华., 顾映晨. (Di 1 ban ed.). Beijing: Wu zhou chuan bo chu ban she. ISBN 7-5085-0279-5. OCLC 55895164.
  3. ^ a b c d e Burkus, Anne Gail (2010). Through a forest of chancellors: fugitive histories in Liu Yuan's "Lingyan ge", an illustrated book from seventeenth-century Suzhou. Yuan, active Liu. Cambridge, Mass. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-68417-050-0. OCLC 956711877.
  4. ^ Stepanov, T︠S︡vetelin (2010). The Bulgars and the steppe empire in the early Middle Ages: the problem of the others. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. p. 55. ISBN 978-90-474-4452-7. OCLC 695988846.
  5. ^ Zhu, Ruixi; 朱瑞熙; Bangwei Zhang, Fusheng Liu, Chongbang Cai, Zengyu Wang, Peter Ditmanson, Bang Qian Zhu (2016). A social history of middle-period China: the Song, Liao, Western Xia and Jin dynasties (illustrated ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-107-16786-5. OCLC 953576345.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b c Zhu, Ruixi; 朱瑞熙 (2016). A social history of middle-period China : the Song, Liao, Western Xia and Jin dynasties. Bangwei Zhang, Fusheng Liu, Chongbang Cai, Zengyu Wang, Peter Ditmanson, Bang Qian Zhu (Illustrated ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-107-16786-5. OCLC 953576345.