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  • Chinese: 髡髮 (kūn fā)
  • Japanese: 辮髪 (benpatsu)

The queue is a Manchu men's hairstyle which was imposed upon the Chinese populace during the Qing Dynasty. It consists of shaving the front of one's head, and growing out the remainder of the hair, which is then formed into a long braided ponytail. Though initially resisted as a barbarian custom, and as counter to Confucian teachings which forbid the shaving of the head, the practice was strictly enforced by the Manchu authorities (under pain of death) and within a few generations came to be seen as "Chinese" "tradition." When Chinese emigrated to the United States and elsewhere in the 19th century, most prized their queues as part of their tradition and their identity, and resisted having to cut them off. Today, in large part due to the cultural memory of these immigrants, as well as in part due to the impact of kung fu movies, the queue has taken a central place in American (and other Western) imaginings of the Chinese.

The queue was mandated of all those under Manchu control beginning with the 1621 conquest of Liaoning, if not earlier.[1] Following the fall of Beijing to Manchu forces in 1644, the Manchu regent Dorgon is said to have declared the very next day that all Chinese men would be obliged to adopt the queue, in an order known as the tìfà lìng (薙髪令, J: chihatsu rei, "hair-cutting order"). This brought sufficient protest to cause Dorgon to reverse his decree, but the following year, he declared that all "martial Chinese" (those loyal to the Manchus prior to the fall of Beijing, and incorporated into the banner system) had to adopt the queue. As the Qing were still very much in the process of subjugating China, this would help them identify their allies, and their enemies, both in towns and on the battlefield. This idea would remain in place throughout the dynasty; a month later, Dorgon decreed that all Chinese men were obliged to adopt the queue, and any who did not would be seen as enemies of the state. Men and women both were also obligated to adopt Manchu forms of dress, but Qing attempts to ban footbinding were never successful.


  • Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, Second Edition, W.W. Norton & Co. (1999), 38.
  1. Ronald Toby ロナルド・トビ, "Sakoku" toiu gaikô 「鎖国」という外交, Tokyo: Shogakukan (2008), 213.