Did your Ah-ma wear a hair bun like the grandmother character in our Wa Si Teochew Kia—My First 120 Teochew Expressions flashcards?
Until about a couple of generations ago, all married Teochew women did so as a sign of their marital status. This can be seen clearly in the photograph below taken in the early 1900s and captioned "Teochew married women viewing the sea".
Teochew mothers wearing the hair bun are also depicted in the painting titled "Costumes - Swatow" from John Scarth's 1860 travelogue Twelve Years in China, which appears in the opening scene of our Wa Si Teochew Kia—My First 120 Teochew Expressions introductory video.
The hairdo of the Teochew women was a source of fascination and the subject of three photographs taken by travelling photographer John Thomson in 1870, which researchers have determined to be the second, third and fourth images of the Teochew region ever captured on film:
潮州女人的发型造型精致，别具风格。旅行摄影家John Thomson 于1870年在汕头拍下了这三张梳着精美发髻的潮州女子照片。这三张照片已被文化研究学者认定是潮州地区第二、第三和第四张最早的影像。
Before there were handbags, high-heels and trendy clothes, Teochew women wore their hair buns, known as 鬃 zang1, as fashion statements. Styling the hair bun is called 拍 鬃 pah4zang1. There were several different styles and the "turtle zang" (龜鬃 gu1zang1) is said to be in the vogue in the 1940s. This was dressed using a coconut shell (that is shaped like the turtle's) and held together by a silver hairpin and it was popular because the turtle is to the Teochew people a symbol of fortune, prosperity, longevity, wealth and happiness.
在没有手提包、高跟鞋和时髦服饰的年代，潮州女子将他们的发髻（潮语称“鬃 zang1 ”）作为时尚的象征。梳这样的发髻被称为“拍鬃 pah4zang1”。鬃的样式多种多样，其中“龜鬃 gu1zang1”发型在上世纪40年代流行。潮州人把龟当成福、禄、寿、财、喜的圣物。龜鬃是用一个雕刻有吉祥图案的椰子壳将圆髻套住，用银簪或珠簪串紧。椰子壳的形状像龟壳，故被称“龜鬃”。
Sanyangzhi (三陽志) - a gazette of the Teochew region written in the Southern Song period (1127–1279) and believed to be the oldest text of its kind - is cited in the Ming dynasty Yongle Encyclopedia (永樂大典) in reporting of an old custom of local women wearing a tall hair bun when they travelled to the city. The style of hair bun was noted to be different from the ones in China's Central Plain and its surmised that it could have evolved from an even older trend. This is to say the Teochew practice of wearing a hair bun is at least 800 years old!
Young children who are yet able to read, discover the exciting world we live in through their 5 senses, especially sight.
Our Wa Si Teochew Kia—My First 120 Teochew Expressions flashcards, which are developed for children under the age of 3 to learn the Teochew language together with their parents, feature original artwork in which our illustrators try to incorporate elements of the Teochew culture whenever possible.
Have you also noticed that the hairdo sported by our adorable Ah Mue (Little Sister) character is inspired by the Teochew opera?
We wish that through these visual cues, our children will be impressed with an awareness of our people's unique cultural identity. At the same time, we hope to spark those little conversations at home about old memories of what grandma, or great grandma, wore that make every family special.
Who knows? Maybe one day Teochew women will again proudly don the turtle bun.