Red Yao women of a small Chinese village Huangluo have always cherished their hair as something sacred. A girl is allowed to cut her hair just once in her life—for her 18th birthday. A short haircut along with a scarf she has to wear is the main indicator she is looking for a husband. In the meanwhile, cropped hair is made into an ornamental piece and is kept by her grandmother until the girl gets married. Then the bunch of hair is gifted to her groom, and afterwards, it becomes a part of her everyday hairdo.
There were times when local women were not allowed to show up with loose hair in public, only husband and children had the privilege of seeing that. But in 1980s things changed, probably due to the increasing tourist flow. Rare long and healthy hair is an attraction which helps the village get some good profits. So today tourists are welcome to special performances where Yao woman sing and dance showing off their long loose hair. However, performers are only married women, when unmarried girls preserve their hair for the husband to be the first to see it.
In spite of such rule alleviation, the hair still remains the most sacred part of the body. It's worn long till old age, for its length is proportional to life longevity and prosperity. Moreover, Yao women somehow manage to grow old, but not to go grey... The first grey hairs might appear after they turn 80.
As to loosing hairs, it still happens, but every single lost hair is collected and made into another ornamental part also added to the traditional hairdo. So all in all, elaborate hairstyle of an average Yao woman consists of her own hair, the hair she had before her wedding, and also those collected falling hairs.
A hairdo indicates some social status. For instance, if you see a woman with a hair bun above the forehead, it means she has children; if it's simply wrapped around her head, then she doesn't have children yet.
You might be interested how do they take care of such long hair, and if there is any secret, after all. The only known secret is that they are using river water left after rice rinsing to wash hair. Shampoo isn't used there at all. But who knows, maybe there are some other untold secrets you'll find out on your visit to the long hair village. It's located in Longsheng County in North Guangxi Province.
One of the best times to discover the village during the Long Hair Festival which takes place annually on March 3 of the Chinese lunar calendar. During the festivities, you can capture a unique sight of all Yao women gathered together along the river combing their hair.
In June, Yao people celebrate their yearly orthodox Red Clothe Festival, during which Longsheng Yao girls take on their best clothes and sell their specialties on the market. The festival is considered to be a Valentine's Day to Yao tribe, a good chance for single people to find their future husbands and wives by antiphonal singing and playing the harmonica. If there's a sparkle between young people, they might go into the river for romance.
After all, you may come any other time in a year. The months between May and October are recommended for the most beautiful landscapes. Moreover, it's better to avoid rice harvest months.