Colourful Yi Headgear
Yi people have a tradition of wearing colorful headgear, which is part of their unique culture. Yi people have many sayings about the tradition, such as "Birds are pretty because of their features, and people are pretty because of their headgear,"and "Han people care about their footwear, while Yi people care about their headgear." Much of the headgear is derived from their original totems or their plant or animal worship.
Yi people, who inhabit southwestern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces, account for more than 6.57 million of the country's population (based on the 1990 census).
A Yi woman's headgear reveals her age and social identity. A young, unmarried Yi woman wears a thick, ethnic cloth headgear that is in the shape of a cockscomb. The woman will pin silver decorations, such as a silver fower, on the headgear for decoration. According to legend, a cock rescued ancestors of the Yi people when they were young. The Yi believe the cock is auspicious, and wearing such headgear will help protect young unmarried women and keep them safe and happy. Cockscomb is also typical of a pattern frequently used in other parts of Yi costumes.
A married Yi woman will wear large headgear in the shape of a lotus leaf. Legend has it that Yi women were smarter than Yi men in ancient time, and that Yi god Zhige Aluo once asked a couple how many times the husband had ploughed his land. The husband could not answer, but his wife replied by asking the god how many steps his horse had taken that day. The god couldn't answer her.
The next day, the god took a ram to the couple's house and asked the husband to breed the ram. The wife said her husband was at home delivering a child. The god was astonished, and said: "How could a man give birth to a child?" The woman answered: "How could a ram deliver a lamb?" The god was impressed by her wisdom and ordered Yi women to wear large headgear in the shape of a lotus leaf to conceal their wisdom. Now, such headgear is part of married Yi women's traditional costume.
A Yi man's headgear is a black cloth made into the shape of wimble. It is called a hero knot, which reveals the man's strength. Yi people worship the eagle, and they believe Yi men should be as brave as an eagle. A young man's hero knot is as thin as bamboo, while the knots of middle-aged and elderly men are as thick as a fst. Infuenced by their traditions, Yi people's colorful headgear is a precious legacy.