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Classic Ladies’ fashion design and the society changing (1):Chinese Hanfu

Updated on December 7, 2017

People say “Architecture is a language of a societ.” As such, clothing is also a language to tell different stories about a society, which displays the spiritual philosophy and the living interest of a nation or a national group. Then, nearly all countries and groups have their own special clothing to indicate their own natures.

Chinese Han clothing, including female and male ones, derived from the remote ancient (about 5,000 years ago), and had not been changed much until mid-17th century, when one of Chinese minor groups, Manchu, had taken over the crown. In genera, Han people is the major group and the governor in China. Hanfu not only shows the world Han nature but also represents the spirit of the entire nation, including the other 55 minor groups.

Classic Chinese
Classic Chinese

It has been said that Huang Di, one of the most ancient ancestors of Chinese people, invented the Hanfu. In terms of the clothing itself, it came from and deeply roots in the great nature. Briefly speaking, it consists of two parts: the upper garment and the lower skirt (female and male), which intended to take on the heaven and the earth. Huang Di, Yao, Shun, the three remote governors managed the people by creating clothes and amending the rite of wearing them, i.e. hovering under the Heaven God. Thereby, they believed that the two parts are given from the decree of the Heaven God. The wife of Huang Di, Lei Zu, invented how to feed silkworms and how to weave silk thread. Then, Hanfu, with time, had been changing into an amazing art, the harmony between humans and the Nature!

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To be compared, female clothing is more colorful and more beautiful than the male one in term of materials, designs, patterns, etc. Generally, the main raw materials are China grass and natural silk, which are weaved into different kinds of cloth, including brocade, tough silk, damask silk, cotton, flax silk, sheer, etc. They are then produced into products with diverse designs and patterns to match with the natural surroundings, flowers, birds, leaves, clouds... by dyeing, weaving, embroidering, which shows the harmonious philosophy between humans and the nature. Necessarily, Hanfu is assorted with some ornaments. Let’s take the Bu Yao as an example. It is a popular hair pin for women with different colors and materials. Its tail sways while ladies walk with the long skirt floating in the air. Some other beautiful and possibly expensive accessories, i.e. a jade plate, a perfume sachet, or a small fragrant bag were hung down in the waist. As the different kinds of clothing do, the different geweries also indicate the different social class of people. In general, rich people wore natural silk, while civilians wore flax cloth, and so on.

Bu Yao
Bu Yao

Besides the upper garment and the lower skirt, anci people developed “Shen Yi”, i.e. a long-robe-like clothes. It is created in one complete cloth, and generally with a belt in the waist part. In Spring and Autumn time(about 771 B.C.~221B.C.), Shen Yi had been started, and had mainly represented the development and the changing of Chinese Han clothing with time. In addition, almost in the same era, the current Chinese people introduced Hufu from Hu people (some minor groups today, such as Inner Mongolia), which in the character of shortness, tightness, then it is easy for fighting and hunting, suitable onto soldiers and worriers.

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Shen YiHufuHufu
Shen Yi
Shen Yi

Along Chinese history, there only 2 minor groups out of 55 ones had conquered and controlled the country. Mongolia people established Yuan dynasty, then tried a cultural invasion on a whole level. They forced Han people to wear Mongolian clothes, but in the reverse, Han people retook the regime, then dislodged nearly all Yuan elements, and recovered the Han feature. Manchu people established the last feudal dynasty, Qing. With different reasons, especially the invasion of the western civilization, and the end of the imperial system, Hanfu had disappeared for a long time, so that people from all of the world, including Chinese themselve, know about Chinese Tang Zhuang (I believe that the name came from “Chinatowns”) and Qi Pao, and think them as Chinese national clothing, but they are, as a matter of fact, the Manchu clothing. As the other 55 groups had displayed their own national clothings to show their unique beauty, brilliance, love and culture..., Hanfu, in Qing dynasty, had become meaningless and useless, even laughable, then a beautiful language for the society had been put out.

Until recent days, Han people, the major group of China with over 90% population has developed Hanfu campaign to try to find back that sweet memory, a special admire to the nature, and a strong spiritual cohesive force. It has been said that a Chinese young man in Zhengzhou city of Henan province was the first one who bravely wore the ancient Hanfu on street, then the sleeping memory and a powerful passion had been activiated in the nation. Nowadays, some changes have been made for being easy to wear and exercise in everyday life, such as to be shorten sizes.

As the national clothing of a large country, Hanfu has been continuing and developing for about 5 thousand years. It has not been made big and obvious changes through every historical time. Believe that it will be reviving with time to tell its old and new stories about its conception and its people in the new era.

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Shortened size in skirt and sleeves
Shortened size in skirt and sleeves
Shortened size in skirt and sleeves


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