Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Chinese Hairpin Museum is Preserving An Overlooked Tradition

The Chinese Hairpin Museum is Preserving An Overlooked Tradition

A New Frontier in Studies of Chinese Art, Culture and Feminine Mystique

The Hairpin Museum, Taiwan 


Wu Yi-Shiuan lives in Taiwan and is probably well ahead of her time. While collectors in world of Chinese art and Chinese material culture focus on rare porcelains, bronzes, finely carved jades, scrolls and scholarly objects, Wu Yi-Shiuan has opened a new door of study and has opted to focus on women's hair adornments. While many argue fine Chinese objects have skyrocketed in value beyond the grasp of many collectors, this area of study and appreciation is only just beginning with much room for growth. The Chinese Hairpin Museum is preserving an overlooked tradition which is a terrific thing.

Hairpins A Facinating Look Into Chinese Culture 

Wu Yi-Shiuan, Hairpin Museum Founder
Chinese hairpins, are a definite art form. They can be stunningly attractive visually and incorporate every known material found in other Chinese arts. Silk, jade, bronze, glass, horn, tortoise shell, ivory, porcelain, silver, Kingfisher and Peacock feathers, gold, tin and wood can all be found as examples. Pretty amazing. Visit the site's gallery for more...

Throughout history around the world the topic of women's hair has been written about in classical writing and poetry , painted by artists going back centuries and sculpted into bronzes, marble, wood and and virtually anything you can imagine. The same cultural fascination has also held true in China especially with regards to women's hair accessories. 

In her effort to preserve the objects evolved from this arena of material culture Ms. Yi-Shiuan has been busily collecting, researching, restoring and most importantly preserving all manner of Chinese hairpins. For now it's a virtual museum, her dream is however to one day build a physical museum where visitors can come and learn and appreciate these objects. I suspect she just might do it too!
King Fisher Hairpin, Photo: Hairpin Museum.org

While some "virtual Chinese museums" are little more than advertisements to sell items, mostly fakes and reproductions, this virtual museum is a remarkably good, genuine in it's intent, well laid out and very informative. Its actually much more informative than many "bricks and mortar" museum sites. 

The Hairpin Museum was started in 2011 and has been added to since on a regular basis.  It's loaded with images by category from the Neolithic period to modern day with section on "do's and don'ts" for restoration. Ms. Yi-Shiuan is a museum trained conservationist and is passionate about her interest which becomes obvious after reading her writing. She loves what she does. 

Empress Dowager "Cixi"
 One area of the site I found particularly interesting is the Postcard and Drawings sections. It comprises numerous vintage 19th and early 20th century examples of how women styled their hair and how the hairpins were used to adorn these creations.  The variations in styles were often determined by the region in which the women lived as well as their social standing. Like today in women's fashion everywhere it was a fluid situation and a competitive one and a matter of pride, as well as a bit of showing off.  

Bookmark Hairpin Museum Site For Reference!

If you're interested in the history of women's fashion, Chinese culture and fine art take some time to visit what Ms. Yi-Shiuan has created..she deserves our appreciation and support.  If you have something that might add to this terrific effort, they do gladly accept object donations.