In ancient Chinese history, strict rules extended to basic aspects of daily life, such as clothing, dining and living, which would often indicate social status, wealth, age, gender, etc.
Chinese people attach great importance to clothing.
In ancient times, clothes could be classified as “headwear”, “bodywear” and “footwear” depending upon the respective part of the body where the items were worn.
“Headwear” refers to hats but the Chinese word for “hat” cannot be found in ancient texts.
Headwear was referred to as “yuan clothing” and yuan, the same word as Chinese currency, which also means first or beginning.
The differences in social class determined the style of “headwear”.
Nobles would often wear crowns for daily life and helmets during wars.
Commoners would usually only wear scarves around hair buns.
Crowns for nobles could be classified as guan, mian, and bian .
冠, guan, was for average nobles.
冕, mian, was the most precious for emperors and kings.
弁, bian, was in between the former two.
In ancient China, women began to wear long hairpins at the age of 15.
Those from noble families would wear jade hairpins decorated with jewels.
Those from ordinary families could only wear hairpins made out of bones, bamboo or twigs.
Ancient Chinese were very particular about “headwear” because it represented their social status and embodied traditional Chinese social hierarchy —— an important component of ancient Chinese culture.