Queue Hairstyle

The queue or cue is a hairstyle in which the hair is worn long and gathered up into a ponytail. It was worn traditionally by certain Native American groups and the Manchu of Manchuria.


The queue was a specific male hairstyle worn by the Manchus from central Manchuria and later imposed on the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty. The hairstyle consisted of the hair on the front of the head being shaved off above the temples every ten days and the rest of the hair braided into a long ponytail. The hairstyle was compulsory on all males and the penalty for not having it was execution as it was considered treason. In the early 1910s, after the fall of the Qing dynasty, the Chinese no longer had to wear it. Some, such as Zhang Xun, still did as a tradition, but most of them abandoned it after the last Emperor of China Puyi cut his queue in 1922.

Manchu tradition

The Manchu hairstyle was forcefully introduced to Han Chinese by Nurhaci in the early 17th century. Nurhaci achieved the creation of Aisin Gioro dynasty, later becoming the Qing Dynasty of China, after having defeated the Ming forces in southern Manchuria. Once firmly in power, Nurhaci commanded all men in the areas he had conquered to adopt the Manchu hairstyle. The Manchu hairstyle was significant because it was a symbol of Ming Chinese submission to Qing rule. The queue also aided the Manchus in identifying those Chinese who refused to accept Qing dynasty domination.

Queue Order

The Queue Order (simplified Chinese: 剃发令; traditional Chinese: 剃髮令; pinyin: tìfàlìng), 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 and Korean people in the late 19th century, 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. 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.

As a result of this ideology both men and women wound their hair into a bun or other various hairstyles. Manchu men, on the other hand, shaved their foreheads, leaving a long tail (traditionally called “queue” in English).

In 1644 Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a minor Ming Dynasty official turned leader of the peasant revolt. The last Ming Emperor Chongzhen committed suicide when the city fell, marking the official end of the dynasty. The Manchus then allied with Ming Dynasty general Wu Sangui and seized control of Beijing and overthrew Li’s short-lived Shun Dynasty. Then they forced Han Chinese to adopt the queue as a sign of submission. A year later, after the Manchus had reached South China, Dorgon imposed the Queue Order for all Han Chinese, giving the Han Chinese 10 days to shave their hair into a queue, or face death. Although Dorgon admitted that followers of Confucianism might have grounds for objection, most Han officials had instead 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?”

The slogan adopted by the Qing was “Keep your hair and lose your head, or keep your head and cut your hair”. The Han Chinese people resisted the order and the Manchu rulers struck back with deadly force, massacring all who refused to shave their hair. Rebels in Shangdong tortured to death the official who suggested the queue order to Dorgon and killed his relatives. The three massacres at Jiading is one of the most infamous massacres, with estimated death tolls in the tens (or even hundreds) of thousands. 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.

Since the Qing Dynasty grouped Muslims by language, they grouped the Han Hui (currently known as Hui people) with Han chinese since both of them spoke Chinese, and made them wear the queue. Turkic Muslims like the Chanto Hui (Uyghurs) and Sala Hui (Salars) did not have to wear the queue.

However, after an invasion of Kashgar by Jahangir Khoja, 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.

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. Taiping Rebellion being called the Long hairs (長毛) or Hair rebels (髮逆).

Resistance to the queue

Han Chinese resistance to adopting the queue was widespread and bloody. The Chinese in Liaodong rebelled in 1622 and 1625 in response to the implementation of the mandatory hairstyle. The Manchus responded swiftly to this rebellion by killing the educated elite and instituting a stricter separation between Han Chinese and Manchus. In 1645, the adoption of the queue 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 queued.

The queue became a symbol of the Qing Dynasty and a custom except among Buddhist monastics. 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, depicted in, Lu Xun’s short story Storm in a Teacup. Chinese citizens in Hong Kong changed to short haircuts collectively.

Native American queue

The queue is also a Native American hairstyle, as described in the book House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday. It is a Navajo or Diné way of dressing both men’s and women’s hair. The hair is rolled and tied with white yarn or cloth. It is called a tsiiyéél in Navajo.


Other Queues

British soldiers during the 18th century also wore their hair in a style known as the queue. While not braided, the hair was similarly pulled back very tight into a single tail, but was wrapped around a piece of leather and tied down with a ribbon. The hair was also often greased and powdered in a fashion similar to powdered wigs.



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