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Behind the Design: Yun Boutique Chinese Hair Sticks

April 27, 2017 2 min read

Some of you may have noticed that here at Yun Boutique we have a category of jewelry that’s not commonly found in other shops: Hair jewelry.

Hair jewelry, especially decorative hair combs and hair sticks, was a quintessential part of personal adornment in ancient China.

Shang Dynasty hair pin, bone, Met MuseumPortrait of a Lady, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), Met Museum

Hair sticks have been worn as early as the Shang dynasty (1600 to 1050 BC), carved of materials like bone. This form of adornment reached its height of popularity in the Tang (AD 618–907) and Song (AD 960–1279) dynasties. By then, they were made in luxurious materials like gold, silver, jade, and other gemstones.

Since most people in ancient times grew their hair long, hair accessories were not only needed to keep hairstyles in place, but developed into an elaborate culture. It was such a widely understood visual language that one could tell a woman’s rank and marital status by the way she wore her hair.

Strict rules surrounded who could and couldn’t wear hair sticks. Generally, a woman is allowed to wear hair sticks after she comes of age at 15–20. Royal concubines who commit grave errors had their rights to wearing hair sticks revoked. On the other hand, hair sticks were common gifts from the emperor to his officials.

Hair sticks come in a wide variety of styles. Yun Boutique's Cloudy Mountain hair stick belongs to the category called “bu yao,” meaning “swings with steps.” The name describes the fact that the dangling decorations swing with each step, but it’s also an admonition—that one cannot successfully wear such a hair accessory without maintaining ladylike poise.



Produced and edited by Christine Lin. Researched by Ariel Tian.

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