[FOUNTAIN]Shaved heads, fresh startA very strange scene occurred this Christmas. Twenty pastors shaved their heads to protest the revision of the private school law. They conducted worship services around the country. While it is common to see Buddhist monks with shaven heads, the pastors looked peculiar.
The origin of head shaving can be found in the life of Buddha. Siddhatta left the palace when he was 29 years old before starting self-mortification. “By shaving my hair and beard, I pray to eliminate all suffering, ” he said. Hair represented distress and shaving meant the severance of that distress.
A shaved head symbolizes strength, a prime example being Sigourney Weaver from the “Aliens” movie series. Androgynous and charismatic, Weaver’s hair grows shorter with each movie, and by the third film, she appears with a shaven head. Weaver and her shaved head go down in the annals of science fiction movie history as one of the most menacing fighting machines ever.
Sometimes an entire sports team will shave their heads as a sign of unity.
There are many reasons people shave their heads. David Beckham shaved his head several years ago to put to rest rumors of his homosexuality. Beckham’s public relation team advised him to get a haircut that cost 330 euros ($390). The average cost of a haircut in England at the time was 10 euros ($13).
A shaven head may also signify shame. English anthropologist Frazer said in the Golden Bough, “The Franks never cut their hair; when someone threatened the queen with a sword to cut her grandson’s hair, the queen said to kill him because life would be useless with cut hair.”
The Qing Dynasty was in an uproar because of shaven heads. During the summer of 1645, Dorgon, the Manchu prince, ordered the Han race to shave their heads as a sign of submission.
Those who refused to shave their heads were executed immediately, their severed heads placed on poles. It was at this time that barbershops in China were marked with flagpoles. At Kunshan, 40,000 people lost their lives. Gu Xianjian, a resident of Kunshan, shouted at his death, “You can cut off my head but you can’t cut off my hair!”
Buddhists refer to hair as a “nameless plant.” Nameless refers to the “foolishness of being unable to see things correctly.” Consequently, shaving a head means to cut off the nameless plant, foolishness.
Beyond the hair of innocent pastors, the political, economic and social events of 2006 need to be shaved, and people need to gather their senses for the new year.
*The writer is a deputy business news editor of JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yi Jung-jae