This Paris gallery keeps visitors apart with extension hats inspired by Song dy...

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An art gallery in Paris has sought inspiration in ancient China to help it enforce social distancing, by providing hats with winged extensions for visitors, called ‘deconfinement hats’.

The colourful papier-mâché hats are modelled on headgear from the Song dynasty, which ruled China between 960 and 1279, with extensions just long enough to keep wearers the one metre (three feet) apart stipulated in France’s COVID-19 regulations.

The Song dynasty is considered a high point of classical Chinese innovation in science and technology, an era that featured prominent intellectual figures such as Shen Kuo and Su Song. The first Song emperor is said to have ordered his officials to wear winged hats so that they could not gossip without being heard.

“Back in the day, these were worn to prevent public officials from whispering,” Dominique Pouzol, who designed the hats for the 59 Rivoli gallery, told Reuters. “And so, there was already then this notion of social distancing.”

Artists wear colourful "deconfinement hats" made of paper mache and inspired by Song dynasty headwear, for social distancing, at 59 Rivoli gallery in Paris as it prepares a general reopening later in the week, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, June 3, 2020. Picture taken June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Artists wear colourful "deconfinement hats" made of paper mache and inspired by Song dynasty headwear, for social distancing, at 59 Rivoli gallery in Paris as it prepares a general reopening later in the week, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, June 3, 2020. Picture taken June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier ( REUTERS )

The headwear worn by the Song dynasty officials consisted of a black hat with two wing-like flaps. The flaps were stiff and straight, and could extend up to almost a meter each.

Some of Pouzol’s creations carry a political message too, painted in the colours of the rainbow is a nod to gay rights.

“The hats are to protect us from COVID-19,” Pouzol said. “But I said to myself perhaps they can also shield us from ...human viciousness, from small-minded people.”

According to an article by AtlasObscura.com, “The original headwear was made of somber black cloth and was called futou, or more specifically zhanjiao futou—zhanjiao meaning “spreading feet or wings.” Early futou were simple cloths wrapped around the head, and wearers eventually padded them with wood, silk, grass, or leather, writes the scholar Mei Hua in Chinese Clothing. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), as futou gradually took on the appearance of a more fitted, structured cap, officials began adopting them, adding two long wings made of stiffened ribbons.”

-- with inputs from Reuters

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