When it comes to Chinese traditional attire, you must know that Chinese people are fascinated by colors, rich fabric, and embroidered materials. The various royal dynasties that have ruled over China down the ages have influenced Chinese people’s clothing. Also, China has several minority groups and ethnic tribes with their dressing styles. In recent years, the youth of China have become more liberal in how they dress up. However, the ancient dressing style has also been revived in modern China. In this article, we will study the traditional dress of Chinese people. Read on to learn more:
History of Chinese Clothing
Historically speaking, Chinese attire dates back to the later period of the Paleolithic era. i.e., 21st Century BC. During that time, the clothes’ materials included animal skin, and the embellishments were made using animal teeth and colorful stones. The typical Chinese clothes were not discovered until about 5000 years back, during the ruling period of the Yellow Emperor. The Shang dynasty created the basic pattern of Chinese clothing for the first time (17th Century BC-1046 BC). The Shangs were the first to design the Chinese pattern skirt and blouse. During the Zhou dynasty, the long gown emerged and was used with the top or blouse for thousands of years. Over the years, the skirt and top combination were further modified and improved. Next came a significant change with the formation of the Republic of China. During that time, the Mao suit became men’s attire and Cheongsam as women’s attire. Even the women of China were fond of wearing the Mao suit. In the later period, when reforms and open policy emerged, the Chinese people moved towards Western-style attires.
The Notable Features
Both the men and women of China wear loose-fitting and simply crafted clothing heavily ornamented with rich embroidery and applique work. The embellishments and colors of the clothing reflected the status of the wearer. Most of the Chinese traditional clothing showed seasonal and symbolic motifs. The patterns, colors, and embellishments on the dress changed over the years and across the many dynasties that ruled over China. For instance, during the Xia dynasty, black was the most sophisticated color, while during the Shang dynasty, white was the most sophisticated color for clothing. On the other hand, the Zhou Dynasty was fond of the red color in their clothing. Apart from the status of the wearer, the clothing style also reflected the occupation and gender of the wearer.
Types Of Chinese Traditional Costumes
Han Fu/Han Chinese Clothing
This type of clothing was popularized during the era of the Yellow Emperor. The Han people wore this type of clothing. The dress was a long, button-less, cross-collared gown with wide sleeves. The lapel on the right side was wrapped over the left, and a sash was attached to the gown.
Tang Zhuang / Chinese Suit
This typical suit reflects a fusion of the traditional Manchu jacket for men, popular during the Qing Dynasty, and the Western style suit. It is a straight-collared jacket styled with coiled buttons on its front. The color and design are in line with traditional Chinese clothing style, while the tailoring reflects Western styles.
This clothing has its roots in the Manchu style of female attire. With passing times, this clothing has evolved and merged with the Western styles. The dress is meant to accentuate the beauty of a woman’s body. The garment has a straight collar, coiled buttons, and slits on the sides. Also, it is strained at the waist. The materials used for the clothing included cotton, silk, and linen.
Zhongshan Zhuang/Chinese Tunic Suit
This attire is called the Yat-sen suit. This clothing has been named after Dr. Sun-Yat Sen, who designed this attire. The dress reflects a fusion of Western and traditional Chinese styles. Turn-down collar and pocket with flaps are the key features of this garment. Chairman Mao Zedong frequently used this clothing; that explains why this attire was called the Mao suit. This suit is very famous in China, and political leaders of China make sure to wear it during all special occasions and military parades.
Other Types of Chinese Clothing
Apart from the attires mentioned above, there are several other types of Chinese clothing worn by the ethnic groups of China.
Traditional Manchu Attire
This is the traditional dress of the Manchu ethnic group residing in China. The dress consists of a long gown with a waistcoat or jacket. The gown comes with a straight color and a sash at the waist. There are buttons coming down from the suitable collar, which are used to fasten the dress. There are 2 to 4 slits on the gown, and the sleeves are tight-fitting and resemble horse hoofs in shape.
Clothing Of The Ethnic Groups
As many as 54 ethnic tribes reside in China, and each group has its own dressing style. The costume of these groups usually consists of long gowns and short coats paired with skirt or pant. Boots, hat, and cloth as headgear is used with this attire. The gown comes in different styles and reflects the uniqueness of each tribe. For instance, the Tu and Mongolian tribes prefer high-collared and front-buttoned gowns, while the Monba and Tibetian groups show a fascination for a collarless gown with buttons on one side. Furthermore, the Uygur tribes like to flaunt gowns with buttons arranged on the right side specifically.
The dragon robe is a unique Chinese attire known for its extravagant dragon motifs. The dragon motifs are richly embroidered and worn by the emperors, who were considered Dragons coming down to the earth from heaven. The robe featured a round collar, buttons arranged on the right side, and a vibrant yellow color.
Many decades back, every official in China had a distinct uniform. These uniforms had distinct colors, hats, and patterns. One could differentiate the officials and their designation by seeing their uniforms. For instance, during the Ming dynasty, the patterns on the uniform were symbolic of the rank of the officials. Officers of rank one had a crane pattern on their apparel. Those of the second rank had a golden pheasant on their apparel. Those of the third rank had a Peacock pattern on their apparel. Those of the 4th rank had a wild goose pattern on their apparel. Those of the 5th rank had a silver pheasant on their apparel. Those of the 6th rank had an Egret on their apparel. Those of the seventh rank had a Mandarin duck pattern on their apparel. Those of the eighth rank had an oriole on their apparel. Those of the 9th rank had a quail on their apparel.
Traditional Wedding Attire Of China
Traditional wedding costume in China has evolved down the ages. However, most of the wedding costumes were red as red was considered auspicious according to Chinese culture. Official robe and red chaplet were an essential part of the wedding attire, and to date, it is used as a wedding costume. The newlyweds in modern China like to flaunt traditional red attires during wedding ceremonies and for taking wedding photographs.
Traditional Chinese Accessories
No costume is complete without the right accessories. People of China, too, love to showcase their traditional accessories. The woman of China loves to wear bracelets, necklaces, and earrings like the woman of any other part of the world. The use of jade, silver, gold, bones, semi-precious inlays, Kingfisher, etc., was a symbol of the ruling community. While accessorizing themselves, the Chinese paid particular attention to their head and hips. The men of China always remember to flaunt their typical bells, caps, and boots. In every traditional function in China, these traditional costumes and accessories are proudly showcased.
So now you know about the traditional dress of China. This article has discussed in detail how history and culture have influenced how Chinese people dress up. If you plan to go to China shortly, pick some of the best Chinese attires for your wardrobe.