Archive for ‘Shijiazhuang Medical College’

13/06/2019

From cosplay to cause play: why the Communist Party supports a revival in traditional Chinese clothing

  • Han costumes are enjoying a renaissance across China, buoyed by a call to nationalism backed by President Xi Jinping
Women wear Han-style clothing in Beijing as part of April’s Traditional Chinese Costume Day celebration. Photo: AFP
Women wear Han-style clothing in Beijing as part of April’s Traditional Chinese Costume Day celebration. Photo: AFP
Dressed in a flowing robe adorned with beaded floral embroidery from a bygone era, stylist Xiao Hang looks like she emerged from a time machine as she strides across the bustling Beijing metro, attracting curious glances and questions.
While China embraced Western fashion as its economy boomed in recent decades, now a growing number of young people like Xiao look to the past for their sartorial choices and have adopted hanfu, or Han clothing.
The costumes of the Han ethnic majority are enjoying a renaissance in part because the government is promoting traditional culture in an effort to boost patriotism and national identity.

Like the film, television and comic book productions that have inspired cosplay fans in the West, period dramas on Chinese TV have contributed to the surge in interest in traditional clothing. The Story of Minglan, a series set during the Song dynasty, attracted more than 400 million viewers over three days when it was first shown this year.

The success of television drama The Story Of Minglan this year reflects China’s interest in its Han heritage. Photo: Baidu
The success of television drama The Story Of Minglan this year reflects China’s interest in its Han heritage. Photo: Baidu

While each Han-dominated dynasty had its own style, hanfu outfits were generally characterised by loose, flowing robes with sleeves that reached the knees.

“When we were little, we would drape sheets and duvets around ourselves to pretend we were wearing beautiful clothes,” Xiao said.

Once a worker at a state-owned machine manufacturing company, Xiao now runs her own hanfu business, where she dresses customers for photo shoots and plans hanfu-style weddings.

The Hanfu fashion revival: ancient Chinese dress finds a new following

In modern China, the hanfu community includes history enthusiasts and anime fans, students and young professionals.

Yang Jiaming, a high school pupil in Beijing, wears his outfit under his school uniform.

“Two-thirds of my wardrobe are hanfu,” he said, decked out in a Tang-style beige gown and black boots, adding that his classmates and teachers were supportive of his fashion choices.

A government-supported revival in Chinese culture has energised the hanfu community. Since he entered office in 2012, President Xi Jinping has supported the promotion of a Han-centric vision of Chinese heritage.

Fans of traditional Chinese clothing dare to mix old and new, and hanfu is not the preserve of women. Photo: AFP
Fans of traditional Chinese clothing dare to mix old and new, and hanfu is not the preserve of women. Photo: AFP

In April, the Communist Youth League of China launched a two-day conference celebrating traditional Chinese garb, which included hanfu and took in Traditional Chinese Costume Day.

A live broadcast of the event drew about 20 million viewers, alongside an outpouring of emotions.

“Chinese people have abandoned their own culture and chosen Western culture. The red marriage gown has now become a wedding dress,” wrote a user of Bilibili, a video-streaming platform popular among young anime, comic and gaming fans in China.

Clothes were the “foundation of culture”, said Jiang Xue, who is part of Beijing-based hanfu club Mowutianxia, which has received funding from the Communist Youth League.

“If we as a people and as a country do not even understand our traditional clothing or do not wear them, how can we talk about other essential parts of our culture?” she said.

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The style has not yet gained mainstream acceptance in China.

In March, two students in Shijiazhuang Medical College, in northern Hebei province, were reportedly threatened with expulsion for wearing the outfits to class.

Others said they were put off by the reaction they got while wearing hanfu in public.

“I used to be very embarrassed to wear [hanfu] out,” screenwriter Cheng Xia said.

The 37-year-old said she overcame her reservations after going out dressed in a full outfit last year.

Meanwhile, the movement to revive Han ethnic clothing has prompted questions about nationalism and Han-ethnocentrism – a sensitive issue in China, where the government is wary of conflict between ethnic groups.

High school pupils and young children are drawn to China’s hanfu trend. Photo: AFP
High school pupils and young children are drawn to China’s hanfu trend. Photo: AFP

For instance, within the hanfu community there is long-running opposition towards the qipao, the high-collared, figure-hugging garment that was once a staple of women’s wardrobes.

Known as cheongsam in Cantonese, the qipao – meaning “Qi robe” – began as a long, loose dress worn by the Manchu, or Qi people, who ruled China from the 17th century until the early 1900s.

Its popularity took off in 1920s Shanghai, when it was refashioned into a fitted must-have, favoured by actresses and intellectuals as a symbol of femininity and refinement.

“Some people … think that the cheongsam was inspired by the Qing dynasty, which is not enough to represent China. There are nationalist undertones in this issue,” Chinese culture scholar Gong Pengcheng said.

Master of a dying art: traditional dressmaker recalls golden era of cheongsam in Hong Kong

“It is a good trend to explore traditional culture and clothing culture … There are many things we can talk about, and we need not shrink to nationalist confrontation.”

Yang, the high school pupil, was more upbeat. He said: “At the very least, we can wear our own traditional clothes, just like the ethnic minorities.”

Source: SCMP

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