An ornate wooden head piece for constructing traditional hair style
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 9 ½ ins l x 2 ins h (24 x 5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s (?)
This unusual wooden hair accessory is of the type used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by upper class Chinese ladies for constructing their often elaborate hair styles. It is made from lightweight wood with traditional gilded designs on the end pieces. It would have been worn with other hair ornaments such as elaborate hairpins with dangling ends.
The collage photograph shows some examples of similar hair accessories taken from contemporary illustrative sources, and reveals the manner and hair styles in which they were worn.
It is difficult to date such accessories. However as the Qing dynasty in China came to an end in 1911/12 and the Republican era began it is not likely that the ornament is later.
The Manchu minority ruled from 17th century to the early 20th century in China. Manchu married women would arrange their hair into a bun through which was thrust a stick like ornament of decorated metal, wood or even jade. The hair was then wound around this ornament, creating distinctive “wings” which protruded from the head at each side. Of course the size of this stick line hair pin varied according to the taste and social status of the wearer.
Contemporary photographs and illustrations from the late 19th and early 20th century show that these hair styles could vary considerably. There were modest ornaments a few inches in length, worn by middle class Chinese women. Then there were the lavish and exaggerated versions seen at the Manchu court of the Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi. Along with the wooden or metal ornament were often placed hairpins with trembler headings and long pendants, which swung as the wearer moved.
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Chinese hair accessory Mandarin lady vintage headpiece