Weimao & Mili: Chinese Veil Hat 帷帽

Costume Made by: 装束复原

The weimao 帷帽 - lit. "Veil Hat" was one of the most distinctive head coverings during the Sui and early Tang periods. Originally adopted from the nomadic peoples of Central Asia, the weimao was quickly adopted by the women of Sui and Tang China. Their prominence would not only remain in China but would spread to other East Asian cultures as well. The Japanese version of the weimao was called uchikatsugi or more generally as the ichimegasa 市女笠.

The tradition of veiled head coverings began long before the Sui and Tang periods- dating as far back as the kingdom of Northern Wei and the Sixteen Kingdoms period. Because many of these kingdoms were established by the non- Han, steppe immigrants who must endure the harsh, wind-swept weathers, many of these culture had full head covers and hooded riding coats. 

The tradition of veiled hats was introduced to the Central Plains during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. However the first of these hats were not called weimao: at least no at first. The first type to be worn were called the Mili~ with the translated meaning akin to a "fence." 

Central Asian gift-bearer wearing a wide brimmed hat. Veiled hats were used by nomadic people living in northwestern parts of China as a protection against the wind and sand blasts. After the custom came to the Central Plains, it was regarded as fashionable clothing for noble women when playing sports outside. 

Mili were quite long and featured prominent veils that extended all the way to the wearer's hips or knees. The mili became popular during the Sui dynasty (581-618,) especially among ladies of the imperial and ducal houses who rode horses on public roads. They were viewed as a conservative statement of nobility and modesty. The fancier veils were adorned with jade and kingfisher feathers. Eventually, the mili’s long veil was shortened toward the end of the Sui, and by the Tang the new wide-brimmed hat with shoulder-lengthed veil became known as the weimao. 

During the Tang dynasty (618-907), the less conservative weimao became so popular that edicts (one in 650 and another in 671) to wear the more modest mili were completely ignored. Women wore them during long travels or while engaging in sports. Not only does the veiled hat protect them against the wind and sands but it also protected the often elaborate make-up worn by such women. By the middle of the 600s it was popular not just among palace women, but also among commoners who followed their lead. This period was contemporaneous with the reign of Wu Zetian, China's only empress. 

In general, women enjoyed greater freedom during the liberal Tang dynasty, prior to the Tang, figurines of women riding horses were virtually unseen in China. However during the Tang, there were many figurines and murals depicting women seated on saddles and riding at full gallop. The popular sport of polo was enjoyed not only by princess and generals but also by princesses and noblewomen.

Clay figurine of a Tang woman- 7-10th Century AD. Unearthed from tomb No. 187 in the Astana cemetery of Turpan in 1972. Turpan, Xinjian Museum. Weimao also became popular among the nobility in the Turpan area in the Tarim Basin. The figurine reflects the customs in the Gaochang (also called Karakhoja, Qocho) area at that time. The region was then part of the Tang 安西 Anxi Protectorate. Many such figurines were unearthed from the region's necropolis. 

Art by JFOliveras: A Khotanese noblewoman, Khotan was one of the many Tarim Basin city-state kingdoms and during the Tang they were heavily influenced by the Tang. The royalty of the Tarim Basin were known to have worn heavy make up (like the Tang) and lived in palaces that blended Chinese and local architectures. The outer walls were made of rammed earth while the interior were constructed in the square based Chinese Fengshui layout. 

Towards the latter days of the Tang dynasty, eventually the habit of wearing weimao slowly faded within the empire. Gradually- especially in the last days of the Tang empire women's fashions became more ostentatious and featured greater amount of hair accessories. However this would not be the end of such tradition in East Asia. For during the extensive cultural exchange between Tang China and Japan, the Japanese would also adopt this hat as their own. 

The Japanese called such hats uchikatsugi, in reference to noble lady's hats, or more generally as the ichimegasa 市女笠: high born lady's straw hat. They were commonly wore by the noble ladies of the Heian period and were in essence very similar to the mili when it was first came to prominence in Sui China. 

Unlike the shoulder length-ed weimao, these veil hats functionally were more similar to the mili in that the veils are quite long and were lengthened to the hips and knees. Like the mili they were also designed for the purposes of marking the rider as a member of the aristocratic class and also prevent passer-bys from seeing the features of the noble lady. Unlike the Tang veil hats- which were usually made with a variety of materials ranging from rattan wicker to silk and wire frames, most of the ichimegasa were made of straw matte weaves and has a noticeable protrusion. One can seem them prominently displayed in Japan's annual Jidai Matsuri festival in Kyoto where the fashions of ancient Japan comes to live in an ostentatious parade. 

Special thanks to:
My Hanfu Favorites- please go follow her on Tumblr. Thank you Ziseviolet for all your hard work and your inspirational collections. You bring honor to us all!

China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD
China's Golden Age: Everyday Life in the Tang Dynasty


Thank you to my Patrons who has contributed $10 and above: You made this happen!

➢ ☯ Vincent Ho (FerrumFlos1st)
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Figurines from Norther Wei to the early Tang period frequently featured riders- both men and women that covered their face with a square scarf that wrapped around their mouth and neck, cheeks and even the shoulders. 

Early Tang dynasty attendant with Mili in hand


萧炎 said…
Tumbir <3 l like it
萧炎 said…
Don't just look at beauty
Real Chinese handsome guys
萧炎 said…
Chinese americans have no good-looking people
Do you know why?
Because they are all from China's Guangdong(广东) and Fujian(福建) provinces
萧炎 said…
I am not a racist, I am just stating the facts :)
Der said…
All racists have their own 'facts' ... aka Fake News
Dragon's Armory said…
Holy crap!
No comment, lol 🤣
TheXanian said…
What does all this have to do with people from Fujian and Guangdong? LOL

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