Meet Mrs. Pan – she is 56 years old, lives with her parents in their ancestral family home along with her son and grandson in Dazhai Village – in the foothills of the Longji Rice Terraces in Guilin, China.
Normally when a daughter marries she moves into her husband’s family home. Since Mrs. Pan is an only child she lives with her parents so that she may help care for them.
Mrs. Pan is a Yao ethnic minority – famous for having the longest hair in the world. Women only cut their hair once in a lifetime – when they are 18. The cut hair is kept and made into a hair extension – perhaps saved for when they marry. As years pass the women also collect their hair that falls out during combing and washing to make an additional extension. These two hair extensions are added to the hair on her head to create cultural and symbolic hair style.
They hair is worn in two different ways. If a women has been married it is worn in a bun in the front of her head. If she is single there is no bun.
I tried to learn what Mrs. Pan’s feelings were about cutting her hair at 18. It was something that was normal and feelings are not something that is talked about or shared within their culture.
Since we left Guilin I was about to google more information about their hair growing tradition. It seems that they wash their hair with the left over rice water.
In the first couple of photos you can see her extension hanging on the fence.
Click to enlarge photos.