[KS] pigtails

Alain Delissen delissen at wanadoo.fr
Tue Jun 25 07:05:20 EDT 2002

Dear Koen,

Wherever Yun Ch'iho took it firstly, there is visibly a collision of
derogatory expressions, social practices, cultural norms, and inter-national
clichés that should induce you to think of your "pigtail/tonbi" question in
terms of a complex and multi-layered genealogy, instead of addressing it in
terms of a unique origin with a well-defined first occurrence.

Although the book is somewhat uneven, I suggest that you also have a look at
the following reference:

Alf Hiltebeitel & Barbara D. Miller (eds.), Hair. Its Power and Meaning in
Asian Cultures. Albany: SUNY, 1998.

More precisely, see in it:

CHENG Weikun, "Politics of the queue: agitation and resistance in the
beginning and end of Qing China", pp. 123-142.

"The queue style, a source of foreign ridicule and insults, such as
"pigtail", "the tailed lackey", and "half-shaved monks", was apparently
detrimental to China's international prestige [...]. The author of "Lun
bianfa yuanyu" ("On the reasons of changing hair style") remarked: "A
Chinese male has his forehead shaved and wears a queue on his back, looking
like a rope, a chain, or an animal tail. In so doing, he inevitably has a
sense of inferiority, leaving aside how he looks to others [...]" . pp.

In terms of ideological and practical affinities between Chinese
(Han)/Confucian world views and early 20th c. Social-Darwinism (which should
be Yun's "pillars of wisdom" or shouldn't they?), see in the same volume:

DIKOETTER Frank, "Hairy Barbarians, Furry Primates, and Wild Men: Medical
Science and Cultural Representations of Hair in China", pp. 51-74.



Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, Paris
CNRS, Etudes coreennes - U. 8033
delissen at ehess.fr
delissen at wanadoo.fr

European Journal of East Asian Studies

> De : Gari Keith Ledyard <gkl1 at columbia.edu>
> Répondre à : Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Date : Wed, 19 Jun 2002 01:23:41 -0400 (EDT)
> À : "Koreanstudies at koreaweb. ws" <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Objet : Re: [KS] pigtails
> It's interesting how not much happens on this list over weeks at a
> time, and suddenly soneone asks a curious question and everyone wakes up.
> Why are we otherwise so reluctant to use this potentially great thing that
> Rob Provine and his associates have provided for us?
> Of course Koen's question about "pigtail," in the sense of a
> derogatory term for the Manchu queue that Chinese men were forced to adopt
> (after cutting off their topknot and shaving the front half of their head)
> following the Manchu conquest in 1644, raises broader issues.  The
> responses so far, including the interesting quoted material in some of
> them, seem to boil down to "pigtail" being of only late Qing currency and
> perhaps even origin.
> The OED citations helpfully provided by Jay Lewis are interesting
> in demonstrating that the earliest English usages of the term have no
> reference to Chinese at all, but rather to the queue that British soldiers
> and sailors wore in the second half of the 18th century and a little into
> the 19th.  It seems that some wore their queues long after they were no
> longer fashionable, to the extent that the term came to mean old fashioned
> or amusingly conservative.  Such people were called "pigtails."
> For the Chinese dimension, I checked out one of my favorite
> lexical works: <Hobson-Jobson, a glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words
> and phrases, and of kindred terms...>, by Henry Yule and Arthur Burnell,
> 1886 (updated 1903 by William Crooke).  Although the bulk of the corpus in
> this book of over 1000 pages deals with Anglo-Indian words that had some
> currency in English and certainly in the literature of the British empire,
> there are also a good many listings relating to the Malay and Chinese
> parts of the world, where Yule and Burnell dug up a lot of their entries.
> One of these is "pigtail" (p 710).  They write: "This term is often
> applied to the Chinaman's (sic) long plait of hair, by transfer from the
> queue of our grandfathers, to which the name was much more appropriate..."
> (I.e., THEY were CHARMINGLY ridiculous.)  They cite "Miss Bird, <Golden
> Chersonese>," (1879, apparently a novel) and quote a particularly
> offensive passage needing no repeating here. <Hobson-Jobson> will occasion
> a lot of politically correct shaking of the head nowadays, but as a work
> of lexicography it is quite fascinating.
> Considering this together with the OED, the term pigtail
> originated in the British military, where queues lasted for two or three
> generations down to about 1820, and was appropriated by British in China
> to refer to the Chinese.  (It should be emphasized that in the earliest
> literature the Asian usage offensively referred more to Chinese males than
> to their queue.)  Judging from the late 19th century references in Chinese
> and Japanese to <tunwei/tonbi> cited by Young Kyun Oh and Richard Miller,
> it would seem that the Chinese probably picked up the British
> condescension and calqued it as <tunwei> directly from the British usage.
> It was probably the anti-Manchu Chinese revolutionaries who coined the
> Chinese variation. I've read a lot of Chinese and Korean hanmun historical
> sources on the Manchus in the 17th and 18th centuries, but I have never
> seen the term <tunwei/tonmi> in the sense of the Manchu queue.  Nor is it
> in any Korean dictionary that I have handy as I write.
> In response to Kirk Larsen's query on the relationship between the
> Manchu queue and the Korean topknot, I don't believe there could be any.
> Korean males seem to have worn the topknot or something like it very early
> in their history.  In the form used in the Cosen dynasty and the
> construction put upon it in that period, it was exactly the same as the
> Song and Ming topknots.  There was a connection with the Manchu queue only
> in the fact that Koreans well appreciated that the Chinese were forced to
> wear them but that the Manchus, in spite of the humiliations they they
> inflicted on the Koreans (esp. in the 17th century), had not enforced them
> in Korea.  Throughout the Qing dynasty, thousands of Korean diplomats
> proudly wore their topknots (in Ming style, with the knot in a net under
> the hat) while in China, to the great astonishment and chagrin of the
> Chinese who were denied the privilege.  As to the broader question Kirk
> raises about possible connections between "traditional Korean court dress"
> and its "Manchu/Jurchen/barbarian" counterparts, there was absolutely none
> if by "court dress" he refers to the formal dress of civilian officials.
> Their dress consciously and rigorously copied official Ming stye, except
> that it skewed the ranks two steps lower than the Ming: that is, a Korean
> rank one (ilp'um) uniform was exactly the same as a Ming uniform for a
> rank three official, and the last two ranks, eight and nine, had a more
> distinctive Korean cut.  If Kirk refers to the formal Korean military
> dress, all one can say is that there was no resemblance that I can see
> between the Korean uniform and the Manchu.  The Korean military hat and
> other items of the dress were quite different from Ming military styles as
> well.  Some Korean writers of the 18th century who wondered about the
> origin of the Korean military dress were uncertain as to its origins and
> history, suggesting that it had native roots of some antiquity.
> Richard Miller's suggestion that the derogatory "pigtail" started
> out in the U.S. needs some back-up.  It might be checked in H. L.
> Mencken's _The American Language_ and its supplements.  But on the basis
> of the above, I would rather suspect that the term was first used in our
> revolutionary generation in its British military sense.  It is significant
> that of the American founding fathers who wore a queue (George Washington
> aand Alexander Hamilton come to mind), most seem to have had military
> backgrounds.  You never see pictures of Samuel Adams or Benjamin Franklin
> with a queue.
> Gari Ledyard
> On Sun, 16 Jun 2002, Koen De Ceuster wrote:
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>> Dear List,
>> Looking through Yun Ch'iho's hanmun diary, I was struck by his at times
>> derogatory terminology when talking about the Chinese. In particular, his
>> use of the term 'pigtails' (tonmi) was striking, as it is a term not
>> unfamiliar to Western ears. He used it after visiting a public park in the
>> English concession in Shanghai on 11 February 1885. The park was closed to
>> Chinese ("No Dogs nor Chinese admitted"), which led Yun Ch'iho to jot down
>> his thoughts on international relations, and the inability of the Chinese to
>> stand up to the mighty Western powers. It is in this context that he used
>> the word.
>> On other occasions (a.o. expressing his exasperation at Chinese political
>> interference in Korea), he would use the term 'Manchu pigs' (hodon).
>> My question in fact is related to the specific use of 'pigtails.' Does
>> anybody on the list know where the term originated, whether it was used in
>> Japan (and by whom), or was it a Western term, that seeped into his
>> vocabulary through his contact with American diplomats and missionaries?
>> Any useful hints are most welcome.
>> Koen De Ceuster

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