"Ladies Of The Mountains"

                     "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair! So, that I may climb thy golden stair."
Where did the long tresses of the Rapunzel fairy tale come from? Most people argue that the long hair was borrowed from a Persian epic, The Shahnameh, written around the year 1000 CE. In the story, the beautiful Rudaba catches the eye of a young hero named Zal. In order to meet up, he visits her tower, and she throws down her long hair so he can climb up to see her. If you thought Rapunzel was resigned to fairy tales then meet the women of Huangluo Village, Guangxi Province, China.

Yao ladiesYao ladies ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

When they reach the age of 18, they get their first haircut as part of a coming-of-age ceremony which signifies that the girl is now an adult and can marry. The hair is cut off during the ceremony and is preserved and not thrown away. After marriage and childbirth, this section of the hair is weaved and worn in the form of a hairpin as a distinction between married and unmarried women.

Yao LadiesYao Ladies ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
In fact, one might even say that the idea of hair extensions originally came from the Red Yao women, whose hair is actually made of three bunches: her own hair, the hair from before her wedding, and the third is made from the falling strings of hair, which are collected and cared for every day. All three come together to form an elaborate expertly wrapped hairstyle. Different hairstyles also represent the different social status of the bearer.
Hair extensionHair extension ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved Yao ladyYao lady ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved



Yao lady tying up her hairYao lady tying up her hair ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved CompletedCompleted ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

If the hair is wrapped like a circular tray on top of her head, it means she is married but has no children. If she is married with children, she’ll wear a bun at the front of her wrapped style.

Yao lady combing hair in waterYao lady combing hair in water ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

The Yao ladies use rice water together with natural ingredients such as tea seeds and ginger as a natural shampoo. This fermented rice water is rich in vitamin B, which promotes melanin production for the hair. The natural shampoo is believed to keep the Yao women’s hair shiny and soft. It also has anti-dandruff, anti-itch, anti-hair-loss properties and helps in oil control on the scalp. Tea seeds, which contain a high level of crude protein and a variety of amino acids, work as excellent non-ionic surface-active agents that effectively lift and remove dirt from the hair. Their diet of seafood, beef, sweet potatoes, corn, salted duck, and red beans also provides plenty of protein and promotes melanin production.



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