Hanfu: Weaving pride with fashion

Source:Global Times Published: 2009-5-31 21:14:14

By Zhang Fang

Students in Hanfu attire during adult ceremony.
Hanfu, the traditional Han Chinese clothing is making a comeback. Overseas Chinese communities and enthusiastic youngsters in the country are making both a fashion statement as well as evoking national pride with this dress dating 202 BC – AD 220. In fact, the Hanfu style was exhibited in London during a parade called “Chinese costume--Hanfu” held during the Flower-Worshiping Festival in March this year. The organizer of this event actually hoped to start a Hanfu society in Britain in the future. Such is the interest rekindled in Hanfu.

It is not exactly clear how this Hanfu trend gathered momentum, but according to reports appearing on the Internet, a young man in the northern Chinese city of Zhengzhou, in Henan Province, started it all off. Wang Letian, a worker at a state-owned power company, was seen walking in this traditional attire one fine day in 2003. There was lot of enthusiasm around this simple event.

In China, there are number of websites dedicated to the revival of Han clothing, and they serve as an important arena for enthusiasts to meet and interact on this style of clothing. Hanfu fans meet through certain online forums, hold regular activities and events to promote Hanfu as clothing for important festivities and social rituals. A website, huaxia-han.com, was established by five Han culture lovers in 2003 and it now has over 30,000 registered members

Zhu Hao, administrator of Tianhan, a website popular with Hanfu enthusiasts, believes that a Han clothing renaissance would bring a sense of identity back to the Chinese people. Zhu does not hold the view that people should stop wearing suits, T-shirt, jeans and other Western clothing completely, but rather favors people donning on nation’s own costumes on Chinese New Year and other Chinese holidays.

In 2006, dozens of students at Renmin University wore Hanfu clothing in an archery contest, an important ceremony in ancient China, according to a report in Beijing Review.

Hanfu generally features wide sleeves, crossing collar-bands and layered loose robes, all held in place with a fabric belt. Hanfu garments are typically made of cotton or silk and are usually plain colors, in contrast to the colorful Tang costumes. Fans of Hanfu clothing are often also interested in the game of Go (weiqi) and traditional tea culture.


Youth regale in Hanfu.

Though many believe that Qipao or Cheongsam, traditional Manchu clothes, are China’s national costume, the Qipao is fairly modern, considering China’s thousands of years of history. Hanfu-style clothing, originating during the Han dynasty, largely disappeared in the 17th century with the arrival of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The resurgence of Hanfu style began a few years ago, as more and more Chinese people began to see this as the way to protect China’s traditional culture in the face of globalization.

A proposal to use Hanfu as the official uniform for the Beijing Olympic Games was submitted to the Chinese Olympic Committee in 2008. However, the proposal was rejected.

In Asia, the national dresses of many countries, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam, has been at least partially derived from Hanfu. People are much less aware of Hanfu than they are of the Japanese Kimono and or the Korean Hanbok, which, unlike the Hanfu, continue to be popular today.

Recently, as an effort to get more people to adopt Hanfu, semi-formal or slightly modernized Hanfu styles, such as the T-shirt Hanfu, have begun to show up. These clothes retain the traditional essence of Hanfu without its complexity and inconvenience.

For the majority of Chinese people though Hanfu symbolizes ancient tradition and does not seem to carry appeal as a modern wear.

The supporters of Hanfu, though, still keep working on reviving the tradition, believing that it is not only about bringing back a forgotten fashion, but also creating pride in China’s ancient culture and history.

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