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SIGHTS OF CHINA: Chinese Children And Their Sweat Rags

Maybe you’ve seen them hanging off the back of Chinese kids like bibs put on backwards and wondered what these strange accessories were. No, they are not yet another way that adults here cute-ify their children, to the contrary they serve a very functional roll: they soak up sweat.

Maybe you’ve seen them hanging off the back of Chinese kids like bibs put on backwards and wondered what these strange accessories were. No, they are not yet another way that adults here cute-ify their children, to the contrary they serve a very functional roll: they soak up sweat.

My daughter loves her sweat rags. She has one that’s in the shape of a panda and another that has an anchor superimposed over it. All of her friends wear them, they seem to be the new preschool fashion statement in China. Sometimes she tells me about the new styles of sweat rag the other kids at school are sporting.

My daughter told me that these rags are called hanjing, and they extend from her collar down over her back, thus absorbing sweat before it seems into her shirt. For style, there is a flap that hangs outside the back of the shirt that can be made into animal or other designs that children are into.

She wears these rags by the decree of her school. The aunties there recently got together and demanded that all kids wear these sweat rags as a part of their daily dress. Apparently, they are tired of changing sweaty shirts.

“Contrary to what we would think,” my wife, who works at my daughter’s school, began, “these sweat rags are not more common in the summer when it’s hot but in the autumn when the kids are sweating because they are wearing too many layers of clothes.”

Chinese children are well defended from anything approaching cold. This is to the extreme, and kids are often bundled up by parents and grandparents in so many layers of clothing that they sweat profusely throughout the day. To counteract this effect, they insert these sweat rags, thus adding yet another layer.

“Doesn’t these sweat rags just make the kids hotter and sweat more?” my wife asked a coworker.

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

Whatever the case, these sweat rags are a relatively recent phenomenon in China. I don’t know when they first became popular, but even young adults here have no recollection of wearing them as children.

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Filed under: China, Clothing, Culture and Society

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 89 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3474 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • Tristanbul October 15, 2013, 6:49 am

    The cold-evasion isn’t just limited to China. This brings back memories of my 7-12 year old Korean students begging me to turn on the air conditioner in the classroom in December. They were burning up wearing heavy winter coats, and refused to go coatless because it just seemed totally crazy for them to go without a coat, indoors, in winter.

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    • Wade Shepard October 15, 2013, 10:11 pm

      Yes, this is incredibly interesting. Like wanting the air conditioning on various occasions I’ve seen people open windows in the middle of winter because they’re too hot with their coats on. Our logic of “If you’re too hot, just take off your coat,” just doesn’t apply.

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