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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

The queue or cue is a hairstyle most often worn by men. Hair on top of the scalp is grown long and is often braided, while the front portion of the head is shaved. It was worn by the Manchu people of Manchuria and certain indigenous American groups. Some early modern military organizations have also used similar styles.

The requirement that Han Chinese and others under Manchu rule give up their traditional hairstyles and wear the queue was met with resistance, although opinions about the queue did change over time.

Jurchen queue

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

Manchu queue

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 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 specifically 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 hair on the front of the head was shaved off above the temples every ten days and the remainder of the hair was braided into a long braid.[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 signified Han submission to Qing rule, and also aided the Manchu identification of those Han who refused to accept Qing dynasty domination.

The hairstyle was compulsory for all males and the penalty for non-compliance was execution for treason. In the early 1910s, after the fall of the Qing dynasty, the Chinese no longer had to wear the Manchu queue. While some, such as Zhang Xun, still did so as a tradition, most of them abandoned it after the last Emperor of China, Puyi, cut his queue in 1922.[7]

Queue order

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 for philosophical and cultural reasons. 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。)[14]

As a result of this ideology, both men and women wound their hair into a bun (a topknot) 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 a 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 allowed them through Shanhai pass. They 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 reached South China, on July 21, 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 worn by 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 "Not shave your forehead and lose your head, or shave your forehead and keep your head" (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. Han rebels in Shandong tortured to death the Qing official who suggested the queue order to Dorgon, and killed his relatives.[18]

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, and while it was the Qing who imposed the queue hairstyle on the general population, they did not always personally execute those who did not obey. 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. The third massacre left few survivors.[20] The three massacres at Jiading District are some 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 October 9, 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]

Han Chinese soldiers in 1645 under Han General Hong Chengchou forced the queue on the people of Jiangnan while Han people were initially paid silver to wear the queue in Fuzhou when it was first implemented.[23][24]

The queue was the only aspect of Manchu culture that the Qing forced on the common Han population. The Qing required people serving as officials to wear Manchu clothing but allowed other Han civilians to continue wearing Hanfu (Han clothing) but most Han civilian men voluntarily adopted Manchu clothing[25][26] like Changshan on their own free will. Throughout the Qing dynasty Han women continued to wear Han clothing.[27]

Since the Qing dynasty grouped Muslims by language, the Han Hui (currently known as Hui people) were classified as Han Chinese, so they were required to wear the queue. Turkic Muslims, like the Uyghur and Salar people, were not required to wear the queue.[28]

However, after Jahangir Khoja invaded Kashgar, 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.[29]

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 members of the Taiping Rebellion were called the Long hairs (長毛) or Hair rebels (髮逆).[30]

Resistance to the queue

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 by killing the educated elite and instituting a stricter separation between Han Chinese and Manchus.[31]

In 1645, the enforcement of the queue order 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 wore a queue.[31]

The queue became a symbol of the Qing dynasty and a custom except among Buddhist monastics.[32][33][34] 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.[35]


Neither Taoist priests nor Buddhist monks were required to wear the queue by the Qing; they continued to wear their traditional hairstyles, completely shaved heads for Buddhist monks, and long hair in the traditional Chinese topknot for Taoist priests.[36][37][38][39][40][41][42][23][43][44][45][46]

Foreign reaction

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 when 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.[47]

Other queues

Curley Bear with queued hair.

See also


  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” Archived 2010-11-16 at the Wayback Machine ("Keep the hair, lose the head" in the Song-Jin era)
  4. ^ 身体的争夺与展示 Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Zi Yunju (紫雲居), Chinese: 中國的髮爪與接觸巫術 Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine (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 Archived July 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ 清朝之剃髮結辮 Archived June 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ On Qing Government's Land Policy towards Chaoxian Reclamation People of Break Probibition[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "论清朝对图们江以北朝鲜垦民的"薙发易服"政策".
  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
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  21. ^ Ebrey, Patricia (1993). Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook. Simon and Schuster. p. 271.
  22. ^ Wakeman 1975b, p. 83.
  23. ^ a b Godley, Michael R. (September 2011). "The End of the Queue: Hair as Symbol in Chinese History". CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY (27). China Heritage Project, The Australian National University. ISSN 1833-8461.
  24. ^ Justus Doolittle (1876). Social Life of the Chinese: With Some Account of Their Religious, Governmental, Educational, and Business Customs and Opinions. With Special But Not Exclusive Reference to Fuhchau. Harpers. pp. 242–.
  25. ^ Edward J. M. Rhoads (2000). Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861–1928. University of Washington Press. pp. 61–. ISBN 978-0-295-98040-9.
  26. ^ Twitchett, Denis; Fairbank, John K. (2008) Cambridge History of China Volume 9 Part 1 The Ch'ing Empire to 1800, p87-88
  27. ^ 周锡保. 《中国古代服饰史》. 中国戏剧出版社. 2002-01-01: 449. ISBN 9787104003595.
  28. ^ Morris Rossabi (2005). Governing China's Multiethnic Frontiers. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-98412-0. p. 22
  29. ^ James Millward (1 June 1998). Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity, and Empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759-1864. Stanford University Press. pp. 204–. ISBN 978-0-8047-9792-4.
  30. ^ Hiltebeitel, Alf, ed. (1998). Hair: Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures. State University of New York Press. p. 128.
  31. ^ a b "鄭氏王朝的滅亡".
  32. ^ “cutting tail”reflected the jiang nan social in guang xu dynasty two years
  33. ^ 清代妖术恐慌及政府的对策:以两次剪辫谣言为例
  34. ^ 頭可斷辮子不可剪 清朝留學生剪辮=偷了情 Archived October 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ 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
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  37. ^ Gerolamo Emilio Gerini (1895). Chŭlăkantamangala: Or, The Tonsure Ceremony as Performed in Siam. Bangkok Times. pp. 11–.
  38. ^ The Museum Journal. The Museum. 1921. pp. 102–.
  39. ^ George Cockburn (1896). John Chinaman: His Ways and Notions. J. Gardner Hitt. pp. 86–.
  40. ^ Robert van Gulik (15 November 2010). Poets and Murder: A Judge Dee Mystery. University of Chicago Press. pp. 174–. ISBN 978-0-226-84896-9.
  41. ^ James William Buel (1883). Mysteries and Miseries of America's Great Cities: Embracing New York, Washington City, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and New Orleans. A.L. Bancroft & Company. pp. 312–.
  42. ^ Justus Doolittle (1876). Social Life of the Chinese: With Some Account of Their Religious, Governmental, Educational, and Business Customs and Opinions. With Special But Not Exclusive Reference to Fuhchau. Harpers. pp. 241–.
  43. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 2, 2016. Retrieved March 21, 2016. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  44. ^
  45. ^ "Full text of "Sunlight and shadow of America's great cities"". Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  46. ^ East Asian History. Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University. 1994. p. 63.
  47. ^ 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.: 110–112Template:Inconsistent citations ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  48. ^ 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)
  49. ^ Wilkinson-Latham, Robert (1977) The Royal Navy, 1790–1970 Osprey Publishing, ISBN 0-85045-248-1 (p. 34)
  50. ^ 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)

Works cited

Further reading