Chinese clothing is an important part of their culture. Although China no longer dresses in their older more traditional styles, the traditional garments are still worn for holidays and ceremonies. There have been many historical changes in Chinese clothing, and the Chinese style choices vary depending on what region is being scrutinized. Hanfu is a term that includes all traditional Chinese dress worn prior to Manchurian and western influences. All Chinese citizens living under the Ming dynasty, and many dynasties prior to it adopted this style of dress.
It was widely worn by all until the beginning of the seventeenth century and the start of the Quing dynasty. Hanfu, which was the widely accepted style in China for over three thousand years, consists of the Shenyi. A one-piece robe, which wraps around the body, the Shenyi is made up of different parts. The Jin, or the upper front of the body, the Jiaoling Youren, which means “crossed collars to the right” in Chinese and is the collar usually seen on the Hanfu of both men and women. The collar is only tied to the left as burial dress.
The Qu and Mei are the cuffs and sleeves, and the Chang is the name of the skirt. The first recorded dynasty in China was the Shang dynasty. Although they did wear Hanfu clothing, most specifically the Shenyi, the garment worn by them was actually made of two separate pieces. The jacket, referred to as the Yi, and the skirt, or the Shang. It did not become a one-piece garment for many years. During the Shang dynasty the colors most often used for the garments were warm colors such as red and yellow.
As time moved forward the Chinese began to decorate the fabrics with red and yellow designs. Different regions of the country had different norms as far as Hanfu dress. During the Zhou dynasty the western people used different styles of the Hanfu Shangyi to differentiate between classes. The differences in classes are shown through the two styles of sleeves, the broad and the narrow, and the decorations that the wearer hung from his or her belt such as pieces of jade.
When the Quing dynasty took over, so did a new style of clothing. The Qipao was the traditional style for women and the Cheongsam was the style commonly worn by men. All Chinese were required to switch from the old Hanfu style of dressing or they would be killed due to the new rulers in place. The Qipao is a one-piece dress that traditionally fits loosely on the body and was designed to hide the woman’s figure. It is also sometimes referred to as the mandarin gown.
In the early nineteen hundred the Qipao was updated into the dress we recognize as traditional Chinese dress today. The close fitting dress with a high neckline is now often worn as a party dress and has been copied and worn by American women as well. The Cheongsam is the men’s version of the Qipao. It is a two-piece outfit made up of a pair of simple pants and a top with a high neckline extremely similar to that of the Qipao. The Cheongsam is traditionally made in the color black, and was the formal dress worn by Chinese men up until the introduction of the western-style suit.
Ancient Chinese Fashion
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Ancient China had a different style of clothes than the United States. The clothes worn all depended on which the dynasty or year they were in. Chinese people always took in the styles, which they were supposed to wear very quickly, although the dynasties changed. In many ways the items they wore had a connection with demons and/or evil spirits. The Ancient Chinese had a very unique sense of style.
Clothing embroided the harmonious relationship between nature and people. Peasants and regular citizens dressed differently from high-ranked officials. The high-ranked officials dressed in the finest silk for public outings and celebrations, and less expensive clothes at home. The peasants wore a long shirt like garment, made of undyed hemp fiber, which altered little until modern times. While the officials wore silk, the peasants, men specifically, wore baggy pants made of hemp with a loose cotton shirt. Peasant women wore simple wool garments in the winter and cotton in the spring. Peasant children wore children size of their parents¡¦ clothes.
Each dynasty had popular clothing that all the citizens knew about. The Tang Dynasty had the system of the full dress, which was strict. During the Han, women usually wore the ruqun, a two piece ensemble consisting of jackets and a long flowing skirt. The Yuan women aristocracy had their own style; Zhi sun dresses were very popular in the Yuan dynasty. Coats were considered an informal dress in the Qin and Han dynasty. The Tang noblewomen favored the hundred bird dress.
As the times changed, the empire had a new law for all items of clothing. During the Sui, the emperor decided that all poor people could wear blue or black clothes and only rich people could wear colored clothes. Sometime in the years all the clothes were dark, all people wore the same style, most of the clothes were silk (everyone wore silk), and cotton became in style but it never became more popular than silk. All people had to wear thick clothes during the winter. Then clothes were never a casual matter.
Wealthy families had a variety of shoes that some of the other citizens couldn¡¦t get. People from wealthy families wore shoes that were leather or they wore silk slippers. Poor people wore wooden clogs, straw sandals, flats, or went barefoot. Men, in general, wore tall leather boots. The peasant always had to wear shoes made of straw.
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The scholar and his wife had shoes with curled toes. When the wealthy was buried, they wore silk brocade shoes, which have survived in the tombs over the years.
Footbinding was a major profession for women and young girls. When in the process it was very painful and harsh, because although the Chinese believed that tiny, pointy feet were an essential feature of a female beauty, the girls¡¦ feet were bound at young age. The profession was popular in 960 ¡V 1911.Binding was the symbol of the inferior status tradition for the women. The practice of footbinding spread through a Confucian writer and the scholar Zhu Xi. Women thought to be beautiful they needed little feet, only 3 inches long. The strange part is Manchu women didn¡¦t bind their feet.
Jewelry and charms were clearly important to kids and adults. The scholar-gentry class wore jade, gold, silver, and brass jewelry, while everyone else had copper and iron accessories. Earrings, necklaces, and anklets were worn as protection, as were colored threads fastened to clothes. Children wore hats, collars, and shoes with designs of tigers, dogs, and pigs to also scare evil spirits away. A boy might wear a plain metal ring like a dog collar to fool the evil spirits into thinking he was a dog. You could tell at glance a persons¡¦ position in China¡¦s rigid special hierarchy by the jewelry and accessories they were wearing. Jewelry also became an important part of an official costume when everyone started wearing jewelry with all the costumes.
The hair and headgear was especially special to the Chinese. Both men and women wore their hair long. People said that you got your hair from your parents and so it was disrespectful to cut it. Women¡¦s¡¦ long hair was arranged in topknots¡¦, held in place by hairpins and other ornaments. For men, hats were usually shaped like tight fitting tops with turned up brim all around.
Fabrics and make-up wasn¡¦t that important but showed some value. Chinese opera make-up usually consisted of much exaggerated paintings on facial features. Each color on actors face meant a special personally----- if an actors¡¦ face was painted red, the audience knew it was a loyal character. Layers of carefully applied face powder and rouge created ¡§a vision of loveliness.¡¨ The make-up was so beautiful that Tang poems praised women¡¦s elaborate make-up. On the other hand remains of woven silk and hemp articles and ancient ceramics figures further demonstrate the sophistication and refinement of clothing in the Shang Dynasty. Silk was a useful fabric to the Mongols and for the rich.
For different occasion there was a different clothing style, or clothing shown and worn. For weddings the bride wore a traditional red dress, for funerals people wore white, the color of mourning in China. The Nobles were buried in silk. The nobleman¡¦s wife was buried with fake hair and cosmetics to look young. Lastly the prince and his wife were buried in suits made of jade.
Ancient China is proven to be a unique country. From its clothes to the accessories, nothing has ever changed. The fact of the matter is all in its history. All the people who lived in the ancient city had a very cherish life. Overall China is a marvelous country.
æ Ancient Chinese Clothing. 10-13-06 www.historyfor kids.org/learn/china/clothing/index.html
æ Michelson, Carol. Ancient China. Sydney, San Francisco, London: Time life Books, 1996.
æ ¡§My Running Notes.¡¨ Classroom file
æ Culture Essentials. Oct. 13-06 http:// www.polaris.gseis.ucla. edu/yanglu/ecc_culture_clothing.html
æ Shearer, Jana. Ancient Chinese Fashion--- Full of meaning. Feb. 19, 2005 http:// www.theepochtimes.com/news/5-2-19/26462.html
æ Shuter, Jane. The Ancient Chinese. Chicago, IL: Heinemann Library, 1998.
æ Sze Ka Ho. Foot Binding. October 06. http:// www.Indiana.edu/ ~eala100/Group3/Foot Binding. html
æ Teague, Ken. Growing Up In Ancient China. Troll Associates, 1994.
æ ¡§The Pheasant Poor.¡¨ Classroom file.
æ Williams, Brian. Ancient China. Australia: Penguin Group, 1996.
Figure 1 this lovely make up of a model in ancient china brings out the beauty in this person
Figure 2 this is an example of a ruqun that has the different parts and its names
Figure 3 this is what a girl feet looked like after their foot was binded
Figure 4 this is a shoe for someone with bonded feet
Figure 5 a traditional red wedding gown
Figure 6 white was the color of mourning and this is the color the family had to wear