Explainer: Why People Cut Their Hair on Longtaitou Festival

By Ryan Gandolfo, February 24, 2020

0 0

The Explainer is where we explain an aspect of Chinese life. Simple. So now you know. 

While China’s Dragon Boat Festival gets plenty of attention, with exciting boat racing competitions and tasty zongzi, there’s another dragon-themed festival that’s also been around since ancient times.

The traditional Chinese Longtaitou Festival, meaning Dragon-Head-Raising Festival, takes place on the second day of the second lunar month, and celebrates the beginning of spring and farming. This year, the festival falls on February 24.

The story goes that after this day, the Dragon King would wake from his winter sleep and bring rainfall for the crops. The Chinese saying ‘Er yue er, long tai tou,’ which translates to ‘On the second day of the second month, the dragon lifts its head,’ celebrates the ancient agrarian culture in China. Although some of the traditions to celebrate the day are no longer practiced, some do remain.

The most notable tradition on the day is getting a haircut, which is said to get rid of bad luck. According to Xiao Fang, deputy director of China Folklore Society, the concept of cutting hair on the day of the festival started around the Ming and Qing dynasties, as cited by Global Times. In contrast, getting a trim during the first lunar month is said to bring bad luck – with one saying even warning that your uncle will die if you get a haircut during the first month (正月剃头死舅舅, Zhengyue titou si jiujiu).

However, some argue the Chinese phrase has been misinterpreted, and actually calls for people to ‘remember the past’ (思旧, sijiu). Xiao notes that men of Han ethnicity were required to shave the front of their head and braid their back portion of hair during the Manchu rule of the Qing dynasty. The similar pronunciation of ‘remember the past’ (sijiu) and ‘death of the uncle on your mother’s side’ (sijiu) probably led to the later saying.

It was a tradition in the past for folks to lineup outside barbershops on Longtaitou Festival, waiting for their first haircut of the New Year. Nowadays, you’re less likely to see salons jam-packed on the day of the festival, especially given the current epidemic situation this year.

How to give a haircut amid the coronavirus outbreak. Image via @杨柳青青林春增/Weibo

As for culinary treats, different eats are popular in different provinces – tofu balls in Fujian, fried beans in Shandong and chengyao cakes in Suzhou, Jiangsu. Popular foods are given names of dragon body parts, such as dumplings (dragon’s ears, long er), noodles (dragon’s beard, long xu) and spring rolls (dragon’s scales, long lin). Other common foods to celebrate the festival include popcorn, pancakes and pig’s head.

So, if you’re looking for a bit of good luck, grab a friend with good hand-eye coordination or daringly head to the barbershop to get a fresh cut today!

For more explainer, click here.

[Cover image via @分享共赏/Weibo]

more news

Explainer: Everything You Need to Know About Qingming

Have no idea what Tomb-Sweeping Day is all about? We're here to explain.

Explainer: Women's Day's Revolutionary Roots

We take a look at the origins and customs of China's 'sanba,' aka International Women's Day.

Explainer: Why is Chinese New Year Called 'Spring Festival'?

Why doesn't everyone call it that, and why is there no Winter Festival or Summer Festival?

Explainer: Why China Celebrates Christmas with Apples

Ever wonder why you've been receiving apples from Chinese friends and co-workers for Christmas?

Explainer: Why 12/12 is the Sequel to Singles' Day

The follow-up to everyone's favorite shopping holiday.

Explainer: 11 Things You Need to Know About Singles' Day

Double 11, China's ecommerce extravaganza explained.

Explainer: Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung? We Have the Answer

On paper, the Great Helmsman hasn't always had the same name.

Explainer: Here's Why Pork is Getting Much More Expensive in China

China leads the world in pork production, producing over 54 million metric tons of pork in 2018.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsBeijing for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Beijing With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Beijing!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.