The Apothecary Diaries: The Meaning of the Hairpins Explained!

The Apothecary Diaries: The Meaning of the Hairpin Explained

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The Apothecary Diaries is a Japanese light novel series written by Natsu Hyūga. Originally published in 2011, the work was adapted into a manga series published in May 2017. An anime produced by Toho Animation Studio and OLM has been broadcast since October 2023. The focus of the series is the heroine Maomao, the titular apothecary, and her daily activities on the court, and this article will explain one segment of Maomao’s life. Namely, we have seen in the anime that Maomao keeps receiving hairpins as gifts. This might come as a bit of a surprise to you, and that is why we have decided to tell you what the meaning of these hairpins actually is.

  • Article Breakdown:
  • Throughout the anime series, Maomao has been gifted several hairpins by various persons. As of the time of writing, she has received four: one from Lady Gyokuyou, one from Jinshi, one from Lihaku, and one from Lady Lihua.
  • There are two ways of interpreting the meaning of these hairpins. One is that it is a sign of romantic affection, which should be the case with Jinshi and – in a way – Lihaku.
  • The second interpretation is that the hairpins are a sign of gratitude for a job well done or for the help that Maomao provided. This should be the case with the other two.

How many hairpins has Maomao received in the anime (so far)?

In case you’ve been following The Apothecary Diaries anime series, you’ve surely noticed that Maomao has been receiving hairpins as gifts throughout the series. They were given to her by different people and in different situations, so it might be somewhat difficult to remember everything, but that is why we are here. In this first section, we are going to reveal how many hairpins Maomao has received as of the time of writing this article.

The quick answer is – four. So far, as of the time of writing, Maomao has received a total of four hairpins. The first one was given to her by Lady Gyokuyou. It was a token of gratitude for everything that she had done for her, but also a symbol meaning that she had already been “taken” by someone. The second hairpin was – as you might have guessed – given to her by Jinshi and in his case, it was a clear sign of his romantic feelings towards her.

Lihaku’s intentions were somewhat similar, but in his case, it was only a complementary hairpin and is thus less interesting than the one given to her by Jinshi. Finally, the fourth and so far final hairpin (in the anime) was given to her by Lady Lihua, also as a token of gratitude because Maomao had healed her from the poison.


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And this rounds up all of the hairpins she has received up to this point in the anime. Of course, there will be more in the future, but we’ll just concentrate on the anime at this moment. Let us now analyze their meanings.

The hairpins symbolize a form of affection, but it depends on the person giving it

Now, the hairpins obviously have a meaning as they are not just fancy gifts. Sure, they are valuable and beautiful, but their symbolic value transcends their aesthetic value. The “issue” here is that the symbolism is neither clear nor identical in each of the four cases, as there are several ways one can interpret these objects.

The first interpretation states that the hairpins are actually a symbol (token) of gratitude. This is a more straightforward interpretation and in the case of Lady Gyokuyou and Lady Lihua, it is clear that that was the intended meaning of the hairpins. Maomao helped them – a lot – and they gave her a hairpin as a token of gratitude.

But, while the first interpretation is an easy one, the second is much more arbitrary. Namely – and this applies to Jinshi’s and Lihaku’s hairpins – these objects can also be interpreted as a sign of affection, romance if you will, that these characters have for Maomao. This is most certainly the case with Jinshi, and probably with Lihaku, but since no one explicitly confirmed this, our interpretation remains a subjective one. Sure, it is based on facts from the series, but it could be that the two of them also simply wanted to thank her via the gift.

Be that as it may, we have provided you with all the necessary perspectives and this is everything you need to know about the topic of this article.

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