When we bought this house 2 years ago it wasn’t empty. This item was one of things left. We knew of a missionary who’d been to China in the family whom owned the house before us for 2 generations. So we figured it must have belonged to him. I googled it, couldn’t find anything like it and stored it away. Recently we started clearing the room were it was stored as that our next room to renovate. So I googled again, again nothing. But I did come across a website by a collector of religious head coverings. So I send him a mail with some pictures. This was the reply I got:

wow! Congratulations!
You have a wonderful and valuable Jijin.
Very, very rare!


Finally I knew what it was, and realised immediately that it was not something to hold on to myself, even though I liked the embroidery. This should be well looked after for future generations. And what better place than in a religious head coverings collection, so this jijin has been added to to it since last week.

The dijin folds up, by taking the hook from the eye at the top of it.

So what is jijin?

The jijin – 祭巾 (which literally means a sacrifice or ‘festival” towel, wrap or head cover) is a square hat, worn by Catholic priests and missionaries in China during the late Ming (ca. 1615) and the Quing Dynasty (1644-1911). In 1615 Pope Paul V allows the Jesuit missionaries to wear the jijin during the religious ceremonies. The following two reasons were essential for the Pope to agree:

1. In Northern China it was very cold, so it was a question of comfort and to avoid illness. Remember that in China during this period men wore their head completely shaved with only a pigtail.
2. The missionaries adapted themselves (as well for reasons of prudence) to the Chinese customs and morals. In China to have his head uncovered was a sign of humiliation and contempt (scorn). The subject always covered his head in presence of the superiors, even if it was the emperor. How to explain the faithful to be uncovered in the presence of Jesus Christ?

Jijin are made of heavy brocaded silk, with a leather headband that is slightly adjustable via a pair of ties on the open corner.

Read the full version about it here.

6 aug 2014: found  newspaper clipping about the death of Joseph Hermans, missionary in China for nearly 35 years until his death. He returned home only once in 1921. The jijin must have been his.

joseph hermans

Addition 2015: pictures of the restored jijin are on Dieter Philippi’s blog.