Liu Bang, the commoner who would eventually become Emperor Gaozu, was an independent-thinking individual—he liked doing things his own way. Instead of joining the family business, he took and passed the examinations required to become an official in the Qin Dynasty, and found employment as the head of a village along the Si River.
While acting as the village leader, the future emperor was said to have envisioned a new kind of hat made from sheathes of bamboo. According to the Grand Historian, Sima Qian (c. 145-90 BCE), Liu bang personally made one of these hats with his own hands. After that, when he was satisfied with the manufacture and design of his product, Liu Bang sent one of his aides off to the district of Xie to have more copies of the bamboo hat produced. Proud of his invention, the future emperor was said to have frequently worn the hat. Liu Bang must have handed down the secret of the headpiece to his descendants, because Sima Qian labeled that specific line of bamboo caps as “the Liu family hats.”
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Picture Attribution: (Illustration of Han Emperor Gaozu, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- Records of the Grand Historian (Shi ji) by Sima Qian, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.