Yao woman combing the rice water through their hair

Anthropology: A Tribe of Women with Hair as Long as Rapunzels

Introduction

“Rapunzel Rapunzel, Let down  your hair.”

We all know and love the classic fairytale ” Rapunzel”. The little girls of this world wished their hair was just as long and beautiful. While all us big girls wish we had hair as long as Rapunzels or as short as Snow White. For a long time, Rapunzel was just a story, until we started witnessing it for ourselves, whether it be in a Guinness book of records, social media or on TV, there has always been less than a hand full of people that have hair just as long. Until people found the village of Huang Luo in China’s Guangxi region. These women only cut their hair once in a lifetime. Their hair is thick and touches the ground.

The living Rapunzels in china
Credit: The backpacker

History of Rapunzel-like hair

Dating all the way back to the 19th century, the biggest stars would let down their Rapunzel-like hair. Not only would this capture the audiences’ attention, but bring wonder and a bit of magic to the stage as well as be modest . Whereas now, all they have to do is shave off their hair like Britney Spears or perform some provocative move like Miley Cyrus to get the people speaking about it to this day.

History of the Yao women

It was not until 1987, that women’s hair was so sacred that it was only to be seen by family members. If a man had to mistakenly see women’s hair, he would have to be forced to take the role of the son in law for three years.

However, this tradition was abandoned and since then the village has become a tourist  hotspot and much more relaxed. Building a theater where they sing and dance to folk songs. They also demonstrate how they wash their hair and sell shampoo bottles to the tourists. All the money made is an income for the village.

The hairstyle for unmarried women
A group of young women with an unmarried hairstyle (Photo credit to Al Jazeera)

As legend has it, a thousand years ago, a girl from the local Yao tribe literally whipped an unwelcomed suitor with her hair and this is why they only cut their hair once in a lifetime. At the age of 18, women would cut their hair to show that they were looking for a husband. This is a rite of passage that is done for all women in the village. Although now the women of the village go off and study to escape poverty and live in the city. Once in the city, many of them cut their hair, since everything has become more relaxed.  You now have a choice about whether you want hair as long as Rapunzels or not.

The three significant Hairstyles

There are different hairstyles for different stages in life. A young unmarried woman has to wear a black head scarf. A married woman would wear her hair down in two braids and a married woman with kids would wrap her hair  around like a turban, and wear it as a front bun.

The Red Yao Tribe

Yao women combing the rice water through their hair in the river
The women of the village wash their hair in the river after combing through it so the shampoo is even distributed (Credit: Messy Nessy Chic)

Huangluo Yao is home to the Red Yao people, an indigenous community originating from the Qin Dynasty. As a matter of fact, the word ‘Red’ got added to their commune because of the traditional hand-woven red jackets and shirts that women wear during festivals and carnivals.

With a mere population of 600 tribe members making up 78 families, Huangluo Yao offers picturesque views of its lush surrounds. The village’s most famous trait, however, is the long, pitch-black hair of the women, who are famous for having Rapunzel-like long hair. The women of this village wash their hair normally in the river everyday and on the fourth day they use their homemade shampoo (read on for the secret to their long hair).

For the women of this village, long hair is a symbol of longevity, so the longer the length of your hair is, the longer you are likely to live. Even elderly women have black hair due to the way they treat and wash their hair. However, do not be surprised when these lovely women invite you back to their homes for a cup of tea, as they are very welcoming and loving.

Dating in the village

To show the woman doing needlework in the theater
Credit to Audrey from the Backpacker

Not only must their hair play a large role in them finding a husband, but the men of the village look for certain things before tying the knot. Such as having a big voice, large feet, a big butt and small hands.

A big voice is needed because during the day the men look after the rice fields and the woman needs a big voice so she can call across the fields for her husband to come have lunch. She needs to have large feet due to the tremendous amount of climbing because of all the mountains. When one thinks of big feet, we think of Bigfoot or the hobbit. Their big feet help them travel up the mountains.

Having small hands is extremely beneficial because there is a lot of intricate needlework done in the village. If you are going to be good at childbearing, you need to have a big butt,as this helps during the pregnancy process. The woman with all these traits is considered good wifey material.

Secret to the long Rapunzel hair

The making of the shampoo
Yao women making rice water shampoo. (credit to 365 gorgeous)

After reading about the Yao woman, you must be wondering how they get their hair to that length? What is their hair care routine? Well wonder no more, the secret to their long hair is the Huang Luo Village Fermented Rice Water Shampoo Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Rice
  • Water
  • Pomelo Peels
  • Tea Bran
  • Fleeceflower Root
  • Ginger

Directions:

Combine the rice and water in a large clay pot. Heat on an open flame until boiling. Add pomelo peels, tea bran, ground fleeceflower root, and muddled ginger into the mixture. Stir and let simmer. Cool the mixture and strain out large particles. Leave to ferment in a sealed container for three to four days.

Once the four days are up, apply this to your hair and leave it to soak for one hour before washing it off, like you normally would wash your hair. This leaves the hair soft, voluminous, and thick as well as pitch black, especially in their elderly age. It also makes your hair grow faster, but don’t do this every day because too much protein will leave your hair in a shambles, and we don’t want that. There are many, including myself, that only use rice and water and, instead of pomelo peels, I use orange peels and I do this twice a month.

8 Rapunzels around the world

1. Ukraine

Alena, the Scandinavian Rapunzel
Credit to 247 news around the world

Alena Kravchenko, who is from Ukraine, is being called a’Real-life Rapunzel’ by her followers. The 34-year-old has been growing her hair since the age of five and says the real beauty of a woman is based on how long her hair is. Kravchenko, whose hair measures 1.8 metres in length, started her Instagram page last year and since then many men have fancied her due to her Rapunzel-like hair.

2. India

Real life rapunzel Nilanshi
Credit to Jessica Dawes

Since 2018, Nilanshi Patel, from Modasa, Gujarat, India, has held the Guinness World Records title for the longest hair on a teenager. At the time, she was 16 years old, and her hair measured 170.5 cm (5 ft 7 in). Last July, just before her 18th birthday, Nilanshi’s hair was measured for the last time and reached an incredible 200cm (6ft 6.7 inches), securing her the iconic title for the longest hair ever on a teenager as well.She decided to stop having haircuts when she was six following a bad experience at the hairdressers. She stuck by her decision for twelve years and previously described her long hair as her “lucky charm”. Unfortunately, she is no longer a Rapunzel. After 12 years, she decided to cut her hair.

3. Atlanta, Georgia

Asha hair, with the length of 55ft
Credit: The daily mail UK

She is the real life Rapunzel with 55ft long dreadlocks that are longer than a bus. Despite being warned by doctors that her hair that weighs three stone could paralyse her, Asha Mandela said she will never cut it.The mother-of-one from Atlanta, Georgia, said: ‘My hair has become part of me. It is my life. I will never cut it.

4. Russia

Here stands Daira in front of her bike with her long red hair touching her ankles
Daira has been growing her hair for 20 years after a bet (Credit to Robyn Lucas)

Another real-life Rapunzel, Daira Gubanova, has been growing her hair since the age of 16 – and now its 172cm long and her wavy golden locks are nearly as tall as she is. Daira is now 34 years old, and lives in Russia and has more than 183 000 social media followers. She started growing her hair as a teen after a friend bet her that she wouldn’t be able to grow her long enough to braid it. Determined to prove her friend wrong, Daria, who used to frequently dye and cut her hair, decided to stop visiting her hairdresser and began growing her tresses  freely. Now, almost 20 years later, the mom-of-one’s hair growth journey is still going strong.

5. United States

Andrea thanks peanut butter for her long hair
Alena gives credit to peanut butter for her long hair (Credit: Allure.com)

Andrea Stano is a 34-year-old woman who has 5ft 6inches  long hair, claims the key to keeping her beautiful Rapunzel-like hair in pristine condition is eating peanut butter daily. And with her luscious locks taking up to 45 minutes per day to preserve, Andrea has said that she has never had a proper haircut. Andrea washes her hair twice a week and spends an additional 15 minutes most days applying a hair mask.

6. Latvia

Online celebrity Aliia from Latvia
Credit: Jaime Levis

The 27-year-old Aliia Nasyrova, who is originally from Russia and now living in Latvia, has been growing her hair out for 20 years. Her brown locks are now on the floor, and then some, measuring seven and a half feet long. Aliia says that her impressive hair weighs around 4 and a half pounds, the same as her pet cat. Although Aliia is proud of her locks, she admits that taking care of her hair comes with its fair share of challenges.

7. London

Malgorzata the Latvian Rapunzel, braids her hair and uses it as a scarf
Credit: Alexander Greensmith

The 34 year old, full-time computing student, Malgorzata Kulczyk  who lives in London, UK, has blazing blonde locks which stretches over five feet and two inches in length, as she’s never had a haircut in her lifetime.The real-life Rapunzel started to braid her hair at the age of seven and last trimmed it over five years ago. Impressively, it is now longer than she is tall.

8. Japan

Keito, a former Rapunzel of Japan in cultural clothing
Credit: Mulboyne

Keito Kawahara, age 18, of Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, said her hair was kept long as a child because of a scar on her head from an incident just after her birth, but she continued to keep it long and wear it in a braid into her teen years.Kawahara’s hair was dubbed a Guinness World Record for longest hair on a teenager between ages 13 and 17 when it was officially measured at 5.1 feet long.

https://www.oddee.com/item_98708.aspx

Cons to having Rapunzel-like hair

The image itself is quiet explanatory
Credit: Rebekah Koontz

Although the idea of having hair as long as Rapunzels may seem like a good one, it does come with its disadvantages. For one, it leaves a rather big dent in your pocket. Taking care of your long hair requires a lot of maintenance and money, with many of the Rapunzels around the world spending more than 600 dollars a month, it is safe to say it is no easy job looking after such long hair. Secondly, the constant neck pain and having to keep a straight posture due to the heaviness of your hair. Thirdly, it is time-consuming. Fourthly, patience is needed. It is no joke because of how annoying it gets. Lastly, the longer your hair the more nutrients it takes, deteriorating your mental health.

Cultural Significance in Anthropology

Purely decorative imageCredit:New York post

Through the lenses of anthropology, unlike some fairytales, Rapunzel is one of the true ones. With more and more girls growing their hair each and every year. In many cultures, it is clear to see that having long hair makes a girl even more beautiful. From China to Ukraine to India. All these women are adorned by many suitors. But do not be fooled, as these real life Rapunzels have daily struggles in terms of maintaining their very own hair.  And who knows, maybe more Rapunzels will pop up in the years to come, or maybe that number will be reduced as many girls are becoming more modern and westernized. Although hearing about these Rapunzel stories, it brings a sense of hope to the world, letting people know there is a world of possibilities if you really want it.

 

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