The “Crown” and the “Banner shoes” of Manchu Ethnic Group
Since the twentieth century, the economy and the culture of Man nationality have changed greatly and many traditional costumes have been hardly seen. However, by means of movie, TV and museum, we can frequently enjoy the beauty of the traditional Cheongsam. In those, we can see that there is a headgear on women’s hair, which is broad and long and which is like a fan to some extent and like a crown to some extent—this hair crown especially catches people’s eyes.
In the past, most Manchu women, like the boys, had their hair shaved off around the head in the childhood, with the hair on the back head left and cued into braid. It was not until they grew up that they could let their hair grow and cued into braid. After marriage, the Manchu women began to roll their hair into salver-shaped hairdo, shelf-shaped hairdo, two halves hairdo and so on, in which the two halves hairdo was the typical. The two halves hairdo was to tie the hair on top of the head, divide the hair into two locks and each lock was cued into a hairdo. At last, the rest hair was cued into a “swallow-tailed” long and flat hairdo. In the daily life, a hair clasp called ” the flat pane” which had 20 or 30 centimeters in length and 2 or 3 centimeters in width, could be inserted into the hairdo. However, on festivals or when welcoming the guests, women should wear their crowns.
The bone of the crown was made up of iron thread or bamboo strip while the cover of the crown was made of the cyan flat satin, the cyan wool or the cyan gauze. The crown was a fan-shaped crown whose length was over 30 centimeters and whose width was over 10 centimeters. When worn, the crown could be just fixed on the hairdo. There were also some patterns embroidered, jewels, various flowers or ribbons and tassels on the crown. This kind of headgear mostly belonged to the Manchu women of upper class and ordinary women could wear this kind of headgear only on wedding day. With this broad and long crown that restricted the movement of neck, women should keep their bodies straight and along with the long Cheongsam and the high-heel shoes, women should mince, which contributed to their sedateness and grace.
Besides the “Cheongsam” and “hair crown”, the “mandarin shoes” of Manchu women were also very special. This kind of mandarin shoes with embroidery have wooden soles and were named “chopine”, “flowerpot-shaped soles” shoes or “horse-hoof soles” shoes. The wooden soles with high heels were around 5-10 centimeters in height, some of which could reach the height of 14-16 centimeters and the highest could reach the height of around 25 centimeters. Generally, the heels were wrapped in white cloth and were inlaid in the middle of the shoes. The heels had two shapes: the first one was broad in top and narrow in bottom, which formed the shape of a trapeziform flowerpot. The second one was narrow in top but broad in bottom and flat in front but round in the back, which formed the shape of a horse-hoof.
So, we got the names of “flowerpot shoes” and “horse-hoof shoes” and both were called “chopine” by a joint name. The uppers of shoes were decorated with the clock of cicada and butterfly. The un-touchdown part of the wooden heel was also ornamented by embroideries and a string of beads. On the tips of some shoes, there were also some silk thread-braided tassels that could touch the ground. The wooden soles with high heels were very solid. It often happened that the vamps had been already worn out but the soles were still intact and could be used again. The mandarin shoes with high heels were generally worn by the upper class young women over 13 yeas old. The mandarin shoes of old women mostly adopted flat wood as soles and were called “flat soles shoes”, whose front were whittled to facilitate walking. However, it was not worn now yet.
Man nationality has a long history of “getting shoes from whittling wood” custom. About the origin of this kind of shoes, there are a lot of opinions. According to one of the opinions, in the past, the Manchu women often went into mountains to collect wild fruits and mushrooms. To protect from the biting of insects and snakes, they bound a wood block onto the shoes and as the development of handcraft, this kind of shoes developed into high-soles shoes. There is still another opinion that the ancestors of Manchu imitated from white cranes, binding tree crotches to their shoes, to cross a muddy pit and recapture the city occupied by the enemy. Finally, they acquired success and achieved the purpose of revenge and development. To remember those hard days and to memorize the contribution of high-heel wooden shoes, Manchu women began to wear this kind of shoes and passed them in the family. The shoes became more and more delicate and finally turned into what they look now.