On the Term dubi kun: Reconstructing the Image of Han Hired Laborers by Investigating their Clothing

Although there is substantial number of studies on hired laborers in Han period, they have not yet constructed a vivid image of this group of personnel. These studies focus on investigating hired laborers’ economic backgrounds, as well as the types of job engaged with and extent of freedom enjoyed. But the appearances of laborers have been scarcely looked into. Nevertheless, the “Biography of Sima Xiangru 司馬相如 (ca. 179-117 B.C.)” of the Shiji 史記 records the type of clothing worn by hired laborers, known as dubi kun 犢鼻褌, and so provides invaluable information for reconstructing image of the laborers. This article attempts to investigate the origin of the name of dubi kun, characteristics of this form of clothing, and status of people who wore it, so as to present a visual characterization of hired laborers.


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