Guan Li – Wikipedia

Confucian coming of age ceremony

The Guan Li (simplified Chinese: 冠礼; traditional Chinese: 冠禮) is the Confucian coming of age ceremony. According to the Book of Rites (also known as Li Ji), it is only after the coming of age ceremonies that young people could call themselves adults and could share social responsibilities.[1] The name Guan Li refers to the ritual ceremony for men, while the Ji Li (simplified Chinese: 笄礼; traditional Chinese: 笄禮) refers to the one for women. The Guan Li and Ji Li have important symbolic meaning for the Han Chinese.[2] Both of these ceremonies are key Confucian rites, and are part of the “four rites”, along with marriage, mourning rites, and sacrificial rituals.[1]

The Guan Li and the Ji Li ceremony can be performed by people of any social class; however, rich people were more likely to hold the ceremony than poor people.[3][2] In the 20th century, these ceremonies slowly phased out, but there has been a recent resurgence of interest, especially in those who are interested in Confucian traditions and Hanfu.[3] Since 2010, large Guan Li ceremonies have taken place each year at Wenmiao, in Taiyuan, Shanxi.[4][5]


The Guan Li and the Ji Li ceremony appeared in China in ancient times, prior to the Qin era.[6] Some philosophical texts dating from the Zhou dynasty and Warring States period provide some evidence for the Guanli ceremony, for example in the Analects of Confucius and by texts written by Mencius.[2] The Guanli ceremony can also be found in the Han Shu.[2]

Guan Li Ceremony[edit]

The Guanli is also known as the “capping” ceremony.[6] Guan (冠) is sometimes translated as crown or cap.[7][8] As a coming of age ceremony, the Guan Li ceremony marks the passage of man from childhood to adulthood.[3][2] It is only after the Guan Li ceremony that a man is considered an adult and can be given adult responsibilities and rights; for example, a man could become the heir of his family, get married, inherit a business, and participate in other aspects of society.[3][9]


The Guanli ceremony typically occurs when a man reaches 20 years old.[3][1][10]

Location and organization of ceremony[edit]

The ceremony takes place in the young man’s ancestral temple on a carefully chosen date, which was considered auspicious, and it was organized by a respectable senior relative of the young man.[1][3] It could also be done by the eastern stairs (which was the entrance typically used by the master of the house) if the boy was a son by the proper wife, to symbolize that he was in the succession line.[11]

On the day of the ceremony, many guests were invited, including the parents of the young man, the master of the ceremony, and an assistant.[1]

Procedures of Guan Li ceremony[edit]

The procedures of ceremony occur through the following steps:[1][3][11]

  1. Before the ceremony, the boy takes a bath; his hair is done and he then waits in a room.
  2. At the beginning of the ceremony, the father of the boy gives a brief speech.
  3. The boy comes out from the room and meets with the guests.
  4. The father of the boy would hand him a cup, in the guest’s place, without receiving one in return.
  5. The senior relative, or the master of the ceremony, washes his hands.
  6. The senior relative places three caps on head of the young man, as follows:
    1. The ceremony master washes his hand and places a putou hat on the boy’s head; the boy then goes to another room to wear clothing with the same colour as the cap. After that he comes out and returns to the ceremony master.
    2. The ceremony master then gives him another cap; the boy goes back to the room and comes back wearing a dark coloured clothing which is worn by adult men to match the cap.
  7. The young man gives a salute to all the guests and officially becomes a “man”.
  8. The young man would obtain a courtesy name.

Derivatives and influences[edit]

  • Korea: Following the confucian tradition, Korean also performed the “capping” ceremony, known as Gwallye (관례 /冠禮) as a symbol of coming-of-age for men.[12][13] On the day of the coming-of-age ceremony, Korean men would have their hair put up in a top knot and cover it with a hat (e.g. a gat) and were official given responsibilities as an adult men.[12][13][14][15]

Ji Li Ceremony[edit]

The Ji Li is the equivalent of Guanli; it is also known as the “hairpin ceremony”.[3][6][16] It marks the transition from childhood to adulthood of a woman.[3][10] It is only after the Ji Li ceremony that a woman is considered an adult and is therefore eligible to be married.[3][10][16][17]


The Ji Li ceremony occurs when a girl is engaged or if she is getting married.[10] However, it typically takes place when a young girl reaches the age of 15 even if the girl is not engaged or married.[1][3][10][16] If the young girl was still not betrothed at the age of 20, the Ji li ceremony had to be performed again.[17]

Procedures of Ji Li ceremony[edit]

The procedure of the Ji Li ceremony occur through the following steps:[1][3][10][17]

  1. A married woman, typically one of the girl’s relatives, combs the hair of the young woman,
  2. The hair of the young woman is gathered up into a bun before being fastened with a ji (hairpin) which is typically inscribed with auspicious patterns.
  3. She is then given an adult name.
  4. The hairpin is later removed after the ceremony

After the Ji Li ceremony, women had to learn how to be proper wives; these learning including the proper manner of speech and dress.[1] They also had to learn needlework.[1]

Derivatives and influences[edit]

  • Korea: Korean women perform a coming-of-age ceremony which follows the Confucian tradition known as Gyerye (계례/筓禮) where they would braid their hair and roll it up into a chignon before putting it in place with a binyeo (i.e. a hairpin) on their 15th birthday.[14][18][15]
  • Vietnam: The tuổi cập kê (also known as the age of wearing hairpin) occurs when a girl reached the age of 15.[19] At the age of 15, the girl starts to wear hairpin, the hairpin becomes an inseparable aspect of a woman; as such, giving a hairpin to a man symbolizes that the woman trusts the man completely.[19] It is based on a Chinese custom.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Li, Hongrui (2017). “Culture Insider: How ancient Chinese welcomed youth into adulthood[1]”. Retrieved 2021-04-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e Hardy, Grant (1993). “The Reconstruction of Ritual: Capping in Ancient China”. Journal of Ritual Studies. 7 (2): 69–90. ISSN 0890-1112. JSTOR 44398771.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Understanding Chinese society. Xiaowei Zang. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 2011. ISBN 978-0-203-80328-8. OCLC 784952529.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ Modern Chinese Religion II 1850 – 2015. Jan Kiely, Vincent Goossaert, John Lagerwey. Brill. 2015. p. 799. ISBN 9789004304642.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ “Traditional Chinese coming-of-age ceremony in Shanxi —”. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  6. ^ a b c “Ethics: the Core Concept of Chinese Rite of Passage–《Northwestern Journal of Ethnology》2017年02期”. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  7. ^ “Evolution of Caps in China”. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  8. ^ Yuan, Xiaowei (2017). “Traditional Chinese Jewelry Art: Loss, Rediscovery and Reconstruction Take Headwear as an Example”. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Contemporary Education, Social Sciences and Humanities (ICCESSH 2017). Paris, France: Atlantis Press. doi:10.2991/iccessh-17.2017.135. ISBN 978-94-6252-351-7.
  9. ^ “On the Symbolism of Crown Ceremony and Hairpin Rite during the Pre- Qin Period–《Nankai Journal(Philosophy,Literature and Social Science Edition)》2011年04期”. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Zhu, Ruixi; 朱瑞熙 (2016). A social history of middle-period China : the Song, Liao, Western Xia and Jin dynasties. Bangwei Zhang, Fusheng Liu, Chongbang Cai, Zengyu Wang, Peter Ditmanson, Bang Qian Zhu (Updated ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 226–227. ISBN 978-1-107-16786-5. OCLC 953576345. Archived from the original on 2016.
  11. ^ a b Legge, James (1885). The Sacred Books of China, The Texts of Confucianism. Vol. 27. Pennsylvania State University: Clarendon Press. pp. 437–438.
  12. ^ a b Clark, Donald N. (2000). Culture and customs of Korea. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 96. ISBN 0-313-00727-6. OCLC 51432263.
  13. ^ a b “Coming-of-age ceremony for boys(冠禮)”. Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture. Retrieved 2021-06-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ a b “Coming-of-age Day”. Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ a b Guide to Korean culture. Haeoe Hongbowŏn. Seoul, Republic of Korea. 2013. pp. 107–108. ISBN 978-89-7375-571-4. OCLC 882879939.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ a b c Francis, Sing-Chen Lydia (2002). “Body and Identity in Liaozhai Zhiyi”. NAN NÜ. 4 (2): 207–231. doi:10.1163/15685260260460829. ISSN 1387-6805.
  17. ^ a b c Zang, Yingchun; 臧迎春. (2003). Zhongguo chuan tong fu shi. 李竹润., 王德华., 顾映晨. (Di 1 ban ed.). Beijing: Wu zhou chuan bo chu ban she. p. 18. ISBN 7-5085-0279-5. OCLC 55895164.
  18. ^ “Coming-of-age ceremony for girls(筓禮)”. Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ a b c Tri C. Tran; Tram Le (2017). Vietnamese Stories for Language Learners : Traditional Folktales in Vietnamese and English Text (Audio Download Included). Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 1-4629-1956-1. OCLC 1017727951.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)