Wu Zetian whips her hair around : a glimpse at Tang dynasty hairstyles


If you don’t love your hair as much as Shirley, Fan Bingbing sports some of Tang dynasty’s fanciest wigs to give you some options..

If you have 260 outfits like Fan Bingbing‘s Wu Zetian, then you certainly got to have the perfect hairstyle to match each one. Here are a round-up of some of Tang imperial fashion a la The Empress of China while we wait for Li Shimin to die already (Seriously, we’re over half way through the drama and the ex-husband haven’t even died yet. Shouldn’t this happen in ep 1 of most dramas?).

Note that I’m no expert at all, and the drama is no historical documentary. Plus, being a drama of the imperial court, most styles are highly decorative and not really what you would see in everyday Tang.

Any hair style involving Han girls pulling their hair on top of the head. Also called 结 jie.  Fun fact: women in the Tang actually did not wear earrings.
Dangling hoops 垂练髻
Splitting the hair into two on each side of the head, and then folded up and tied with knots. Can be decorated with some gems. Popular among Middle Tang young girls.

Double screw  双螺髻
Double screw is splitting hair into two large sections and twist to form two “horns” on the top. Also called double-horned.

Double hooped immortal-seeking  双环望仙髻
Split hair into two. Using black yarn or ribbons to form hoops above the head. Add a small buyao (hairpin with decorations that swing as you walk)  in the front.
Short falling 倭坠髻
Popular from Wei-Jin to the five Kingdoms. Collect hair at the crown, twist and turn to one side, and hold with a hairpin

bddf4d3dgw1enmag65xswj20c808ajscFollow the clouds 随云髻
Named after its cloud-like amorphous shape. Enjoyed by upper-class women.

Twisting Snake 灵蛇髻
Popular since the Wei/Jin eras. Can be twisted in any way.


Flying immortal 飞仙髻
Two symmetric tall buns on either side, usually used for immortals or young girls.

High Mallet 高椎髻
Collect all the hair at the crown and form a single, tall bun at the top.

Round 圆髻
Simple (?!) hairstyle common during the Sui and Tang dynasties. Collect all hair to form a circular bun.


Back roll 反绾式
Collect all hair and then shape backwards. There are many hairstyles using this technique, including the “double blade 双刀髻”, “惊鹄髻”, “Toward the sky 朝天髻”, and “Yuanbao 元宝髻 ”


Flower crown 花冠
A small decorative crown that holds the bun together. Commonly used by upper-class Ming dynasty women.


Half-flipped 半翻髻
Also common among Tang dynasty concubines. Popular in the early Tang. I know you’ve seen this before, but I think it’s a subset of the high mallet?

Knotted roll 结鬟式
Using ribbons and strings, form shapes with the hair. These hairstyles are elaborate and elegant, and are more common among very high-class women.


704_1450401_995204Cross 十字髻
Popular hair style in the South and North dynasties. The hair is first shaped like a cross, and then remaining hair is shaped into two buns on the side.

source: Hunan TV, baike, etc.

13 thoughts on “Wu Zetian whips her hair around : a glimpse at Tang dynasty hairstyles

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Flying Immortal Hairstyle Top Answer Update

  2. Very informative post! I loved the opulence of the costumes and hairstyles in this drama. It is great to know more about the names and usages of all the different hairstyles. :) Would you considering doing a post on the hairstyles/ costumes of Tang Gao Zhong’s concubines?

  3. topknots and buns are very popular among trendy Americans and Europeans these days. It’s a good opportunity to popularize these varieties of hairstyles as part of Chinese soft power

  4. Reblogged this on CapriquariusMei and commented:
    This is such an interesting post about female hair styles of the Chinese Tang Dynasty that I have to share it here. By the way, whoever has thought ancient China is a close-minded country would be surprised to know that the Tang Dynasty is one of the most culturally-diversified periods of China. ^^

  5. This is so interesting! I think my favorite is the knotted roll, but the others are pretty too. I’m also waiting for Li Shimin to kick the bucket. I thought the story would focus more on her second husband and her rise to the throne =\

  6. I actually like a lot of the characters here – Aarif’s future Gaozu is kind of adorable, and the other princes were understandable/rather likable (Li Tai’s “why I want to be the crown prince – BECAUSE I HAVE NOBLE ASPIRATIONS – speech; the whole time, I thought, “I can’t believe he’s pulling this off without sounding like a madman, except, he does…”) Except, I’ve been wondering when Li Shimin was going to die since episode 40…I was so sure he was going to die yesterday…

    Oh well, there’lll still be 30 episodes left, which is the length of some whole dramas, so…the drama was originally titled 少女武则天 anyways, wasn’t it?

    Love the headdresses and the costumes – there’s such a gorgeous effect when they’re all together! (Also, I reaaaaaalllyyy like the maid’s costumes). I can imagine someone actually ordering these costumes for wear~

  7. Love this post, I’m amazed at how many different hairstyles there are. O_O A lot of the hairstyles/hair ornaments look like they’d be really heavy.

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