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Hats with long extensions were worn by officials during the Song dynasty. Photo: Handout

Coronavirus: Chinese school gives pupils a hat tip to teach them how to keep their distance

  • Pupils given headwear modelled on a style worn by officials a thousand years ago to reinforce the message that they must stay a metre away from each other
  • One legend says the hats were given long extensions to stop courtiers whispering among themselves when meeting the emperor
An ancient Chinese hat has joined face masks and hand sanitisers as one of the weapons in the fight against Covid-19.

A primary school in Hangzhou in the east of the country took inspiration from the headgear worn by officials in the Song dynasty, which ruled China between 960 and 1279, to reinforce lessons on social distancing.

Pupils at the school wore their own handmade versions of the hats, which have long extensions, or wings, to keep them at least a metre (3ft) apart when they returned to school on Monday, state news agency Xinhua reported.

One legend says that the first Song emperor ordered his ministers to wear hats with two long wings on the sides so that they could not chitchat in court assemblies without being overheard, according to Tsui Lik-hang, a historian at City University of Hong Kong.

Pupils at a school in Hangzhou made their own versions of the hats. Photo: Weibo

However, he warned that this story came from a much later source, adding: “The Song emperors, in fact, were also depicted to have worn this kind of headwear with wing-like flaps.”

The World Health Organisation recommends that people stay at least a metre apart to curb the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Coronavirus droplets may travel further than personal distancing guidelines, study finds

“If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the Covid-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease,” the global health body advises.

An early childhood education specialist said the hats were a good way to explain the concept of social distancing to young children, who find it difficult to understand abstract concepts.

The pupil’s head gear is designed to drive home the social distancing message. Photo: Weibo

“As children can see and feel these hats, and when the ‘wings’ hit one another, they may be more able to understand the expectations and remember to keep their physical distance,” said Ian Lam Chun-bun, associate head of the department of early childhood education at The Education University of Hong Kong.

Using pictures of footprints to indicate the right distance to keep when queuing, standing, and even talking to schoolmates was also helpful, said Lam, who recommended visual aids and aids that stimulate other senses, such as hearing and touch.

“We can use sharp colours or special textures, like tactile paving,” he added.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: hat’s the way to learn about social distancing