LIFE / CULTURE
Pixar artist promotes traditional Chinese clothing abroad
Understanding through comics
Published: Apr 17, 2022 07:02 PM
Comics by Xin Yingzong Photos: Courtesy of Xin Yingzong

Comics by Xin Yingzong Photos: Courtesy of Xin Yingzong

Comics by Xin Yingzong Photos: Courtesy of Xin Yingzong

Comics by Xin Yingzong Photos: Courtesy of Xin Yingzong

Comics by Xin Yingzong Photos: Courtesy of Xin Yingzong

Comics by Xin Yingzong Photos: Courtesy of Xin Yingzong

Two young women wearing colorful ruqun, a type of traditional clothing of China's Han ethnic group, and two Chinese-style buns stand with their backs to the camera as they face the sea. After hearing someone say "turn round," they turn their heads at the same time, and the big smiles on their faces are revealed. This is the scene depicted in one of the comics by Xin Yingzong, a character designer who works for Pixar Animation Studios.

Xin, who currently lives in Hawaii in the US, told the Global Times that she has been attracted by Han traditional clothing, or Hanfu, for around three years by now. She often dresses in these clothes as she goes out for walks on the streets of this foreign land with her friends. 

Deciding to give play to her professional skills, she has published about 60 short comics recording the beautiful moments she has experienced wearing this clothing with her friends, like the scene by the seashore. 

In the comics, Xin uses a Chinese ink painting style to depict from vast seas to mountain and rivers populated with cute exaggerated cartoon characters. The two styles come together harmoniously to create beautiful and fun art.

Xin edits the comics into short videos that she publishes on video-sharing platforms such as TikTok. Unexpectedly, the videos have gone viral, earning her TikTok account "yingzong_xin" millions of views and helping Hanfu capture their hearts of people from different cultural backgrounds.

'Hanfu makes me proud'

"I studied animation design at the Beijing Film Academy and then I went to the University of Southern California for further study. After graduation, I was recruited by Pixar Animation Studios," Xin told the Global Times.

Some of the designs in Soul, Pixar's 2020 computer-animated comedy-drama film and Best Animated Feature winner at the 93rd Academy Awards, contain Xin's inspiration and efforts.

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Xin has been unable to return home and stay for a long time. She said that part of her obsession with Hanfu can be traced back to her missing the motherland.

Xin and some of her friends often purchase Hanfu through Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao. Prior to the pandemic, it would take about a week for a shipment to arrive.

Her and her friends enjoy wandering different places in the US such as parks, coasts and Chinatowns, wearing Hanfu skirts. When the scenery at a location proves particularly inspiring, they stop and take photos and videos.

Xin said that people compliment them on their clothes, asking where they got them.  

"This is a good chance to promote Hanfu culture. I am very pleased to tell them what I am showing," she added.

Sometimes misunderstandings do occur, but these have just inspired her to further promote Chinese culture. 

"When people ask us if we are Japanese or South Koreans, it makes us feel that we have to wear Hanfu more often so we can tell more Western people that this is traditional Chinese clothing and show them how gorgeous our clothing is," Xin said, noting that she has gradually developed a sense of mission to promote Hanfu culture.

She noted that "wearing Hanfu makes me feel proud as my motherland has such brilliant and centuries-old culture."

There are several folk organizations in the US consisting of Hanfu fans who are also looking to promote Chinese culture. The NorthCalifornia Hanfu Corporation founded in 2017 has nearly 350 members, most of whom are Chinese people working in high-tech industries or studying abroad.

Members regularly hold and attend cultural events to promote Hanfu, calligraphy, martial arts and other traditional Chinese culture.

Expanding influence 

After working at Pixar, Xin noticed that more and more Chinese elements are appearing in Western TV and film works, such as Pixar's popular 2022 animated movie Turning Red. 

Hanfu is just one of these cultural elements. "Chinese culture contains many interesting themes. Our ancient and long-standing history has too many stories that can be explored," Xin said. 

Twenty-seven-year-old French woman Alice Roche is currently working as a media operator for a French luxury company in Shanghai. She is also a fan of traditional Chinese clothing, especially the cheongsam. 

Thanks to her job, Alice has a lot of opportunities to wear different chic clothes for brand promotion. She sometimes wears different styles of cheongsam and posts photos of herself on her personal social media account overseas as a way to promote Chinese culture. 

"My favorite cheongsam are ones made of silk because it makes the flower pattern stand out and the color is bright. Meanwhile, the cheongsam has a high-neck design that can highlight the chest, which shows the beautiful lines of a women's figure," she told the Global Times on Sunday.

Chinese fashion designer Zhang Yan, who made his New York fashion week debut in 2019, also noticed the trend through his fashion shows on international stages. 

Western audiences were also amazed by the exotic charm of his embroidered clothing, calling it a "mysterious Eastern power," he told the Global Times.