Head-shavers’ Load Carried on a Shoulder Pole

Beijing men began to have their heads shaved after Manchu people rule the country. The Scripture of Filial piety stated: “One’s body, hair and skin are given by his parents. No harm should be done to these important things.” Therefore, in Chinese history before Qing Dynasty, no head shave trade had been existed. Manchu people forced the Han men to follow Manchu hairstyle — shaving the top of the head and ware a braid at the back of the head. Anyone who refuse this hairstyle will be beheaded as the Manchu rules stipulated: “no shave, no head.” First Qing Minister Duergun had ordered people set up sheds at main crossroads in Dongsi, Xisi, Di’an Gate and Qianmen Gate. Whenever a man with long hair passed, he would be forced to be shaved in this sheds. There were not enough Manchu head-shavers at that time, so the Qing government permitted Han people to ask for head-shaver trade permission. Hence started the head-shave trade in Beijing.

There were many individual head-shavers selling their services by strolling and yelling along hutong. All their equipments are carried on a shoulder pole — on one side of the pole carried a charcoal stove with a bronze basin for customer to wash their hair; on the other side is a wooden stool with drawers containing shaving tools. The head-shavers in old time Beijing not only shave heads but also provided other relevant services: combing, braiding, shaving, messaging, eye-massaging and ear-picking. There eye-massaging was called “dayan” — rolling a 35cm long round-head bone needle on the closed eyes of the customer. Their massage was called “fangshui”—a slow massage from head to waist.