Viral videos of ladies rinsing their hair with rice water have been trending recently thanks to social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok. However, the recent phenomenon has a long history and this tradition has been perfected and practiced by the Red Yao women for generations. However, who are the Red Yao people and what can we learn about them?
The Red Yao people are one of the fifty-five ethnic minority groups living in China today and they can be found in the provinces of Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan. They have adapted to living in the mountains and around 60% of them live in Guangxi, many of which can be found in Longsheng County.
The ancient Chinese village of Huangluo is actually nicknamed the ‘Long Hair Village’, as the Yao women in this region are known for their long, grey-less, shiny hair. Most women in this area have hair longer than 1.4 meters and have even made an appearance in the Guinness Book of Records.
For the Red Yao people, their long hair is their most prized possession, believing that long hair symbolizes prosperity, longevity, wealth, and good fortune. They wear their hair in different styles to represent landmarks in their life, such as marriage. Yao women only cut their hair once in a lifetime, aged 18. The hair is gifted to a grandmother, and then returned to the girl after she is married to wear alongside her own hair, as a hairpiece - Some may say this was the original hair extension!
Researchers studying the diet of the Yao in Barna Yao County in west Guangxi noted that they eat vegetables for every meal along with a lot of beans. Also, the water is alkaline, and there is little pollution. Ping'an is considered a "longevity village". The Yao people there live unusually long and healthy lives. In Ping'an, of the 560 residents, 7 are aged 100 or more.
The Red Yao have such unique lifestyles that the various communities are quite different from each other. According to the Book of the Later Han Dynasty (25-220), the ancient Red Yao "liked five-coloured clothes." Five colours are red, green, yellow, white and black.
Red Yao women's attire is visually appealing. Some Yao women wear short collarless jackets, cloth belts, and skirts; some choose knee-length jackets buttoned in the middle, belts with both ends drooping, and either long or short slacks; some have their collars, sleeves, and trouser legs embroidered with beautiful patterns. In addition to the silver medals decorating their jackets, many Yao women wear silver bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and hairpins.
Red Yao embroidery is exquisite and delicate. Patterns are predominantly used to represent trees, flowers, birds, and animals, Yunxia hydrology, and urban gear, as well as geometric and literal shapes and characters, with a wide range of names. And each branch has its own pattern.
Embroidery is said to be the lifelong craft of Red Yao women. Girls learn to hold needles and threads with their elders. From middle age to old age, a Yao lady's main duty is to teach their skills to the next generation and train successors. Therefore, Yao embroidery can be handed down from generation to generation. The embroidery art is lively, meticulous, and rough, which cultivates the industrious, gentle, and enthusiastic character of Yao women.
What more would you like to know about the Red Yao people? Write a message down in the comments and don't forget to check out more of our blog posts to find out about our trips to the long hair village.
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