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    Meet the Chinese Women Who Only Cut Their Hair Once in a Lifetime

    Once in a Lifetime


    The village of Huang Luo in China’s Guangxi Region is famous for the dramatically long hair worn by its female residents.

    A thousand miles from Beijing, the village of Huang Luo in China’s Guangxi Region is famous for the dramatically long hair worn by its female residents. As legend has it, thousands of years ago a girl from the local Yao tribe literally whipped an unwelcome suitor with her hair, and to this day many of the Yao women cut their hair only once in their lives: When they are 18 it is shorn in a public ceremony. After that, the locks are left to grow to exuberant lengths, with the cutoff hair woven back into an elaborate coiffure. Unmarried women tuck their hair into a head scarf; married women favor a wrapped-up style with a large bun at the front.

    These manes require special maintenance. The hair is washed—lowered, really—into rice water that has been combined with a few other organic ingredients. The mixture is boiled in a pot and then poured into an enamel bowl; a wooden comb is used to methodically work the solution into the hair from tip to root. This routine is said to be the reason for the hair’s preternatural shine and luster, and the way it remains pitch-black even when the possessor is quite elderly.

    Until the 1980s, local lore warned that if a man saw an unmarried girl with her hair down, he would be forced to serve the girl’s family for three years. Now everyone can gaze upon these luxuriant locks without fear of consequences: Huang Luo village itself has become a tourist attraction. The town has even built a theater, where residents don traditional costumes, perform folk songs and dances, and demonstrate how their hair is washed and coiffed. (The revenue from ticket sales provides most of the village’s income; visitors can also purchase bottles of the rice water shampoo.)

    Photographer Joyce Ng spent a third of her time on this project in the main village, but she also went to two less traveled places, located in the rice terraces surrounding Huang Luo, and many of these photographs are from these smaller hamlets. When she arrived in the area, Ng was surprised to find so few women in their teens and early 20s—most of them were off at school, the only way to escape the region’s poverty. And once they leave the village, most of them do cut their hair. When Ng asked older people how they felt about the girls abandoning the hair ritual, she was surprised that they were actually very relaxed about it. “They say it’s everyone’s choice. They are so open-minded,” she says. And even those who keep to the tradition and perform for audiences, dressed in their colorful ensembles, are also fully at home in the modern world: “They wear jeans,” Ng reports, “and they are all on WeChat.”


    Captions by Joyce Ng

    Senior Visual Editor: Liana Blum
    Prop Stylist: Vaevae Chan
    Special thanks to Wendy Wei Tours, Pan Mei Fang, and Kang

    大豪门彩票

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