The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

The tiger hat (虎头帽, tiger head hat) is a typical child's hat style in Chinese folk costumes with the image of a tiger. Tiger hats, tiger shoes, tiger bibs, tiger dudou, etc. as an important part of Chinese children's clothing, with distinctive characteristics.

The tiger is considered a kind of auspicious beast in Chinese traditional culture, and is an important object of totem worship for the Chinese nation. The tiger hat as a folk handed down to this day a kind of children's hat ornament, with the tiger as the image, hat shape, the pattern is also more tiger head model, so-called the tiger hat.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

 

Origin and Development

Origin 1: Ancient China was a traditional agrarian society that experienced a lot of hardships in claiming nature's materials, and various symbols and forms of divine power to help ward off disasters emerged.

The tiger, as a positive symbolism, was recognized as a sheltering god that could block disasters, and the tiger totem has been passed down to this day in the worship of many evil suppresses. People gradually infiltrated this worship as a belief into the people's daily life, and developed unique handicraft clothing such as tiger hats.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

Origin 2: Chinese tiger hat may originate in ancient Greece "lion hat". It is said that the "lion hat" was made by the Greek mythology Hercules, as a war helmet.

Later, because of Alexander the Great especially worship Hercules, specially imitated the lion hat look. And the main area that Alexander conquered was the Persian Empire in Asia, whose territory covered Turkey, and the Middle East until the border with China's western neighborhood of the Pamir Plateau, which was the main birthplace of Buddhism in East Asia later.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

Therefore, Hercules' lion hat was first used in the art of Buddhist statue-making. With the introduction of Buddhism into China in the Eastern Han Dynasty, especially after the 4th century AD, when the northern Hu regime was established, these lion-headed war helmets, which originated from ancient Greece, became a regular feature in Chinese Buddhist statue art in the form of Vajra and Heavenly Kings.

 

Tiger-headed Helmets

After Buddhism was introduced to China, this figure also appeared among the Chinese warriors during the Sui Dynasty. However, the Chinese warriors changed the "lion head" to a "tiger head" in the process of imitating the production.

During the Sui Dynasty, warrior figurines with tiger-headed helmets and bright armor were preserved in tombs, proving that the image of warriors with tiger-headed helmets began to appear in secular culture. Tiger-headed helmets and warrior figurines from the Tang Dynasty period have been excavated in Xi'an, Luoyang and other places.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

The tomb of Yuchi Gong unearthed painted tiger-headed helmets warrior/general figurines,  so it may be presumed that the tiger-headed helmets from the image of the Heavenly Kings in the Tang Dynasty have been completely combined with secular culture, and the warrior tiger-headed helmets have developed to the extreme.

Song dynasty to Ming and Qing dynasties, tiger-headed helmets rarely seen in warrior armor, towards extinction.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

Children's Tiger Hat

The Tang tomb of Han Senzhai in the eastern suburbs of Xi'an has unearthed a ceramic figurine with a tiger head hat and swaddling clothes, and it is the earliest physical example of an infant with a tiger hat seen.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

In the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, children's tiger head hat literature and archaeological excavations and physical circulation are not seen, or can be presumed that children's tiger hats began in the Tang Dynasty, did not prevail.

At the beginning of the 20th century, coinciding with the late Qing Dynasty, war, social unrest, the low survival rate of children, people hope that the tiger to protect children from evil, tiger hat was once prevalent. Until the 1980s, with the Chinese economic reform, tiger hats also gradually disappear.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

 

Production process

From the function of protecting and keeping the human head warm, the tiger hat body structure is divided into three parts: cap top, cap body, and cap curtain.

According to the composition of these three structures, the tiger hat form is divided into two categories.

  • Only the head form of the tiger.
  • Tiger head + tiger's body.

The tiger head hat is generally with silk or cotton cloth made. According to different regions of China customs and aesthetics are different, and tiger head hat style characteristics are not the same.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

Tiger head hat collected in Liaoning Museum

The central plains of the most developed tiger culture, commonly used the tiger itself in yellow and red, green, and other contrasting more conspicuous colors as the main color, very festive.

The northern region uses black, green, and white, the style is rougher; the southern region (mainly Jiangsu and Zhejiang) embroidery industry is more developed, also adhering to the southern consistent temperament, tiger hat style is more delicate, and realistic production.

 

Cultural Characteristics

In terms of symbolic meaning, the tiger's bravery, strength, and deterrent power extend from warriors to children, fully expressing the Chinese mothers' great love for their children.

Wearing the tiger hat, away from the evil, healthy growth, children's tiger hat stored peace and happiness of the expectation. The symbolic function of the children's tiger hat is to bless the child's healthy growth.

The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing The Origin and Meaning of the Tiger Hat - Chinese Traditional Children’s Clothing

The Tiger hat is one of the typical representatives of this kind of Chinese folk children's clothing, whether its shape, cultural content or process structure have the shadow of Chinese traditional clothing characteristics. The patterns on the tiger hat look lifelike and vivid, showing the people's pure thoughts and feelings and healthy aesthetic interests.

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