Queue (hairstyle)

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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 script Soncoho.png
Romanization soncoho

The queue or cue is a hairstyle, frequently used in reference to men, in which the hair is worn long-except for the front portion of the head which was shaven- and gathered up into a ponytail, often braided. It was worn traditionally by the Manchu people of Manchuria and certain indigenous American groups.

Jurchen queue[edit]

Jurchen men wore their hair in queues like their Manchu descendants. In 1126 the Jurchen initially ordered male Han within their conquered territories to adopt Jurchen hairstyle by shaving the front of their heads and to adopt Jurchen dress, but the order was lifted.[1] Jurchen were impersonated by Han rebels who wore their hair in the Jurchen "pigtail" to strike fear within their population.[2]

Manchu queue[edit]

A European artist's conception of a Manchu warrior in China – surprisingly, holding the severed head of an enemy by its queue. Later historians have noted the queue looking more like a Ukrainian Cossack chupryna 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 Manchu people from central Manchuria and later imposed on the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty.[3][4][5] 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.[6]

The Manchu hairstyle was forcefully introduced to Han Chinese in the early 17th century during the Manchu conquest of China. Nurhaci of the Aisin Gioro clan declared the establishment of the Later Jin dynasty, later becoming the Qing dynasty of China, after Ming dynasty forces in Liaodong defected to his side. The Ming general of Fushun, Li Yongfang, defected to Nurhaci after Nurhaci promised him rewards, titles, and Nurhaci's own granddaughter in marriage. Other Han Chinese generals in Liaodong proceeded to defect with their armies to Nurhaci and were given women from the Aisin Gioro family in marriage. Once firmly in power, Nurhaci commanded all men in the areas he conquered to adopt the Manchu hairstyle.

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

The hairstyle was compulsory for all males and the penalty for not complying was execution for 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.[7]

Queue order[edit]

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),[8][9] 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,[10][11] and Koreans who settled in northeast China in the late 19th century,[12][13] 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

As a result of this ideology, both men and women wound their hair into a bun or other various hairstyles.

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 Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide when the city fell, marking the official end of the Ming dynasty. The Han Chinese Ming general Wu Sangui and his army then defected to the Qing and let them through Shanhai pass, and then seized control of Beijing, overthrowing Li's short-lived Shun dynasty. They then forced Han Chinese to adopt the queue as a sign of submission.[15]

A year later, after the Qing armies had reached South China, on 21 July 1645 Dorgon issued an edict ordering all Han men to shave their foreheads and braid the rest of their hair into a queue identical to those of the Manchus.[16] The Han Chinese were given 10 days to comply or face death. Although Dorgon admitted that followers of Confucianism might have grounds for objection, most Han officials 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?"[15]

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 ).[17] People resisted the order and the Qing struck back with deadly force, massacring all who refused to obey. Rebels in Shandong tortured to death the official who suggested the queue order to Dorgon, and killed his relatives.[18]

When the Qing imposed the queue hairstyle on the general population, it was Han Chinese defectors who carried out massacres against people refusing to wear the queue. Li Chengdong, a Han Chinese general who had served the Ming but defected to the Qing,[19] ordered troops to carry out three separate massacres in the city of Jiading within a month, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. At the end of the third massacre, there was hardly any living person left in this city.[20] The three massacres at Jiading District is one of the most infamous, with estimated death tolls in the tens or even hundreds of thousands.[21] Jiangyin also held out against about 10,000 Qing troops for 83 days. When the city wall was finally breached on 9 October 1645, the Qing army led by the Han Chinese Ming defector Liu Liangzuo (劉良佐), who had been ordered to "fill the city with corpses before you sheathe your swords," massacred the entire population, killing between 74,000 and 100,000 people.[22] 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.

The queue was the only aspect of Manchu culture which the Qing forced on the common Han population. The Qing required people serving as officials to wear Manchu clothing, but allowed non-official Han civilians to continue wearing Hanfu (Han clothing).

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 Uyghur and Salar people, did not have to wear the queue.[23]

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.[24]

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; the Taiping Rebellion being called the Long hairs (長毛) or Hair rebels (髮逆).[25]

Resistance to the Queue[edit]

Han Chinese resistance to adopting the queue was widespread and bloody. The Chinese in the Liaodong Peninsula 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.[26]

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.[26]

The queue became a symbol of the Qing dynasty and a custom except among Buddhist monastics.[27][28][29] 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; this is depicted in Lu Xun's short story Storm in a Teacup in which Chinese citizens in Hong Kong collectively changed to short haircuts.[30]


Neither Taoist priests nor Buddhist monks were subjected to wearing the queue by the Qing; they continued to wear their traditional hairstyles, which was shaving off all the hair and going bald for Buddhist monks, and growing hair long and wearing it in the traditional Chinese topknot for Taoist priests.[31][32][33][34][35]

Foreign reaction[edit]

The Manchus' willingness to impose the queue and their dress style on the men of China, and their success in suppressing the resistance, was viewed as an example to emulate by some foreign observers. H. E. M. James, a British administrator in India, wrote in 1887 that the British rulers ought to act in a similarly decisive way imposing their will in India. In his view, the British administrators should have outlawed the suttee much earlier than they actually did (1829), and in James' own day they should have acted as severely against Indian journalists expressing opposition to the British rule.[36]

Other queues[edit]

Curley Bear with queued hair.
  • The queue is also a Native American hairstyle, as described in the book House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday.[citation needed]
  • British soldiers and sailors during the 18th century wore their hair in a style known as the queue. While not always 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. It was said that the soldiers' hair had to be pulled back so tightly that they had difficulty closing their eyes afterwards. The use of white hair powder in the British Army was discontinued in 1796 and queues were ordered to be cut off four years later.[37] They continued to be worn in the Royal Navy for a while longer, where they were known as "pigtails". Officers wore pigtails until 1805 and other ranks continued to wear them until about 1820.[38]
Painting of the Battle of Leuthen with the Prussian soldiers wearing the soldier's queue
  • In the 18th century, European soldiers styled their traditionally long hair into a queue called the "soldier's queue" (Soldatenzopf), which was previously only allowed for noble Officers. That hairstyle first became mandatory in the Prussian Army and several other Holy Roman Empire's states' forces under Frederick William I of Prussia. An artificial or "patent" queue was issued to recruits whose hair was too short to plait. The style was abolished in the Prussian army in 1807.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 张博泉(Zhang Boquan) 1984,] pp. 97-98.
  2. ^ Sinor 1996, p. 417.
  3. ^ Jia Sheng (贾笙), 宋金时代的“留发不留头” ("Keep the hair, lose the head" in the Song-Jin era)
  4. ^ 身体的争夺与展示
  5. ^ Zi Yunju (紫雲居), Chinese: 中國的髮爪與接觸巫術 (Hair, nails, and magic of China)
  6. ^ Li Ziming (李子明), Chinese: 剃头的故事晚清出国人员生活小记 (Barber's tale: notes from the life of Chinese abroad in the late Qing era)
  7. ^ Lao Lu (Chinese: 老鲁), Chinese: 彻底改变两百年官定习俗 民国初年剪辫轶话 (Thoroughly changing the customs officially established for 200 years: the story of queue-cutting in the early Republic of China period)
  8. ^ Paolo Santangelo (9 July 2013). Zibuyu, “What The Master Would Not Discuss”, according to Yuan Mei (1716 - 1798): A Collection of Supernatural Stories (2 vols). BRILL. pp. 829–. ISBN 978-90-04-21628-0. 
  9. ^ Evelyn S. Rawski (15 November 1998). The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions. University of California Press. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-0-520-92679-0. 
  10. ^ 清朝乾隆23年清政府令平埔族人學清俗
  11. ^ 清朝之剃髮結辮
  12. ^ On Qing Government's Land Policy towards Chaoxian Reclamation People of Break Probibition
  13. ^ "论清朝对图们江以北朝鲜垦民的"薙发易服"政策". ltgx.net. 
  14. ^ De Bary, William T. (1999). Sources of Chinese Tradition. Columbia University Press. p. 326. 
  15. ^ a b Kuhn, Philip A. (1990). Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768. Harvard University Press. pp. 53–54. 
  16. ^ Wakeman 1985, p. 647; Struve 1988, p. 662; Dennerline 2002, p. 87 (which calls this edict "the most untimely promulgation of [Dorgon's] career."
  17. ^ Chee Kiong Tong; et al. (2001). Alternate Identities: The Chinese of Contemporary Thailand. Brill Publishers. p. 44. ISBN 978-981-210-142-6. 
  18. ^ 研堂見聞雜記
  19. ^ Faure (2007), p. 164.
  20. ^ Ebrey (1993).[page needed]
  21. ^ Ebrey, Patricia (1993). Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. Simon and Schuster. p. 271. 
  22. ^ Wakeman 1975b, p. 83.
  23. ^ Morris Rossabi (2005). Governing China's Multiethnic Frontiers. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-98412-0. p. 22
  24. ^ James A. Millward (1998). Beyond the pass: economy, ethnicity, and empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759–1864. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2933-6. p. 204
  25. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf, ed. (1998). Hair: Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures. State University of New York Press. p. 128. 
  26. ^ a b "鄭氏王朝的滅亡". taiwanus.net. 
  27. ^ “cutting tail”reflected the jiang nan social in guang xu dynasty two years
  28. ^ 清代妖术恐慌及政府的对策:以两次剪辫谣言为例
  29. ^ 頭可斷辮子不可剪 清朝留學生剪辮=偷了情
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ Rhoads 2000, p. 60.
  32. ^ "Chŭlăkantamangala". google.com. 
  33. ^ "The Museum Journal". google.com. 
  34. ^ "John Chinaman". google.com. 
  35. ^ "Poets and Murder". google.com. 
  36. ^ James, Sir Henry Evan Murchison (1888). "The Long White Mountain, or, A journey in Manchuria: with some account of the history, people, administration and religion of that country". Longmans, Green, and Co.: 110–112 
  37. ^ Stocqueler, Joachim Hayward (1871) A Familiar History of the British Army, from the Restoration in 1660 to the Present Time, Edward Stanford, London (pp. 103-104)
  38. ^ Wilkinson-Latham, Robert (1977) The Royal Navy, 1790–1970 Osprey Publishing , ISBN 0-85045-248-1 (p. 34)
  39. ^ Hudson, Elizabeth Harriot (1878), ( The Life And Times of Louisa, Queen of Prussia With an Introductory Sketch of Prussian History: Volume II reprinted by Adamant Media Corporation (September 13, 2001) (pp. 214-215)

Further reading[edit]