Sinology Sunday: June 14, 2015

This week, we’ll be trying out a new weekly and calling it Sinology Sunday. Essentially, we hope to use this feature to introduce bits of knowledge about Chinese language, culture, history, literature, society, etc, that can (hopefully) supplement our readers’ understanding of Chinese entertainment. You can find more pictures below the cut. 

For better or worse, the evolution of Chinese clothing is one of those topics that would take forever to write about.  We can begin our attempt by introducing the Hanfu movement.  Regardless of whether you love it or see it as a crazy offshoot of historical revivalism, the one thing that we can agree on is that it has produced many high quality pictures, with historical accuracy that comes from adhering extraordinarily well to current scholarly knowledge.

In other words, they give you an opportunity outside of dramas and movies to ogle pretty clothing.

The following are some links that may help you get some background information.  Please let us know in the comment section if there are any other sites you may be able to recommend for more pictures.  We start this week with featuring clothes inspired by the Tang dynasty, from the Jinse Yizhuang 锦瑟衣庄 (“Jin” describes a brocade, “se” describes a Chinese harp. “Yizhuang” literally means “Village of Clothing.” Essentially, this is a village of beautiful clothing!)

Chinese History Timeline

General Chinese Clothing Timeline

Hanfu: General Information, Hanfu List

28 thoughts on “Sinology Sunday: June 14, 2015

    • The hanfu movement isn’t really just the clothes, but also traditional music, writing, martial arts, etc. You see less guys wearing hanfu out in the streets since it’s less convenient, but plenty are involved in the movement.

  1. I am just going to leave one comment here as a message to everybody and offer my perspectives.

    1. I feel that most of these problems originate from the view that there has to be a “national costume” which in East Asia is usually a frozen form of what people wore during the WWII era.

    2. Clothing trends of any country are an evolution and maybe even a little bit more. Therefore, the view that there has to be a “national costume” is not a very good representation and doesn’t speak for much except for people who do not have time to look further. Even if a form of hanfu was declared the “national costume” of China, we’d probably split into factionalism on which form to choose if you can only choose one.

    Given that, why make yourself a slave to a flawed point of view?

    Also, under the aspect of free speech and thought, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Give everybody some space and freedom to express themselves. If it gets tough, adding in an “IMO” or two never hurt anybody. In the end of the day, it’s just clothing. It’s not like some major catastrophe is going to come about from having a different point of view unless you are implying we should wear clothes fashioned out of cutting knives. Turning the comments section into a competition of who gets the last word is very pointless in my opinion because nobody ends up the true winner.

    Besides, if you really read closely, don’t we all support hanfu? It’s just we have different ways of supporting it whether through revivalism or looking into its modernization. Why can’t we learn to appreciate and celebrate the things we have in common and use differences to perhaps supplement our personal knowledge or foresee future problems? One of the best things about being Chinese is the variety of ideas that come from the different communities around the world whether Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Mainland China, or other overseas Chinese and the experiences that each of these communities have gone through that shape their thought processes. However, if we can’t learn to appreciate ENOUGH what we have in common, it will inevitably be what tears us apart.

    Anyways, the purpose of this post is to explore the historical forms of Chinese clothing through pictures that are available. I feel that this is something everybody can take something away from. Some people are fascinated by historical fashion and wish to learn more. Others can maybe investigate each form and decide on one that is perhaps most suitable for modernization and give their opinions on why or perhaps which situations in modern society each style is probably most suitable for. Maybe you can even provide your opinions on how we can modernize any bit of clothing you see in order to prevent hanfu from becoming a “frozen, dead, ceremonial clothing style” and something more vibrant that we can use in daily life. My point is that this can be a win-win situation. Why do we have to make somebody a loser?

    • I like it when we discuss about these things like a community with different opinions :)

      We are different people with different ideas and this is how we will find common ground on issues such as hanfu movement.

      • Because it’d be like trying to bring back the toga or the robe à la française.

        To me it’s highly impractical for urban environments.
        People dress up in glamour shots all the time when they want to have fun wearing hanfu.
        It’s not as if the hanfu will be lost for all time. 9 out of 10 dramas/movies posted here are in historical settings.

        The biggest reason why I think it is silly is because I feel like it is heading towards a point where, instead of embracing our cultural history, we end up getting stuck in the past. China has changed, is always changing, is still changing, and- I’m quoting the wiki link here- these hanfu enthusiasts want to “reintroduce into modern life the ancient Han Chinese clothing styles before Chinese Qing Dynasty”???? They want to bring back clothes we haven’t worn in centuries!

        It’d be different if the movement was more about modernizing ancient hanfu to strengthen our ties to our past yet still moving toward the future.

        We should be wearing hanfu 2015!
        We need ‘hanfu’ that represents us now.

        • Are the Japanese stuck in the past when they use the Kimono? Are the Koreeans stuck in the past when they use the hanbok?

          • 1) Who cares what Japan and Korea do? Let’s stop focusing on what they’re doing and just focus on ourselves. When I consider the hanfu movement, I am only thinking about China and its circumstances.

            2) No, they are not stuck in the past because they never stopped wearing their kimonos and hanboks. The hanfu movement is trying to bring back something we’ve abandoned for centuries.

            • I find it ironic that the same Chinese who scorn hanfu love Korean costume dramas and don’t hesitate to dress up in kimonos and hanboks when visiting Japan and Korea. Some Chinese even have preferences for Japanese or Korean-style marriage ceremonies in those outfits. These are very strange circumstances for Chinese with a lost identity.

              • Are you one of those Chinese? I don’t know anyone who thinks like that.

                Are you making these people up?

                • I am one of those people. I am all for the revival of hanfu in China. After all, the hanfu was discontinued only in recent times as the clothing that Han Chinese people wore before the Manchurians and not the Han Chinese forced the discontinuation of it. I think the reintroduction of traditional hanfu style clothing into Chinese society will happen, is already happening and will possibly continue to happen until almost all Chinese people wear it on a daily basis (work, school, home). However, this time, just like certain times in the past, the hanfu will change in design and ways to fit Chinese people’s modern taste and style with what is most relevant to the current day and age. Most of China’s dynasty’s have their own unique hanfu style and design. Large sleeve pocket, no sleeve pocket, tight hanfu, loose hanfu, 2 part hanfu, etc.. I’m sure modern Chinese people will take all of the foreign fashion and design they have been exposed to these past decades and slowly incorporate what Chinese people feel is good, comfortable or attractive into their own clothing. This clothing no matter how different or similar it may look to hanfu of the past will most likely be referred to as hanfu again (since hanfu can literally be translated into “Han people’s clothing”. There is a Confucius saying that goes something like this: “Learn everything. Once you do, leave out the things that are bad or harmful, and take in everything that is good and beneficial and make it your own.” I think this is the way Chinese gov and people will approach hanfu making it’s way into becoming more mainstream in Chinese society. They will create a new set of hanfu. Therefore I don’t think there is anything silly about the hanfu movement. I think the hanfu movement is only a natural movement that is happening in order for the majority Han Chinese ethnic group to realize the dream of having their own clothing to wear on special occasions or whenever they feel like wearing hanfu (kind of like the Indian Sari).

        • I’d like to see hanfu worn as a special occasion, formal dress. Something you’d wear to weddings and graduations and festivals. Like a suit. It’s not super practical, and it’s not something you wear all the time, but you’d be willing to spend a little extra—sometimes a lot extra—to buy a good one for when you do.

          But all the photos I see of hanfu enthusiasts are of un-ironed, sky blue, satin-polyester hanfu that they probably bought from Taobao for ¥55. They look like cosplayers on a budget. It’s a bit tacky.

          • I think those are mostly cosplayer ones. The extremists shun those and wear the fugly ones that are duplicated from tombs like Mawangdui.

            I would like to see hanfu as a more acceptable alternative for formalware. Also I want more tasteful modified hanfu. For example, one-piece ruqun’s that are shorter. I feel like in this day and age, there’s no reason why they can’t use technology (i.e. sewing) to make sure the dress doesn’t fall down unless I suffocate myself.

        • If it weren’t for the hanfu movement, most Chinese wouldn’t even know anything about traditional Han clothing. Most only see Manchu style dress as representative of Chinese fashion.

          While it is important to look to the future, it’s foolish to discard the best of our beautiful cultural legacies, such as the hanfu. Korea and Japan are admired for embracing both modern and traditional fashion. There’s no reason why China, the ancient soft power of east Asian culture, shouldn’t have the same pride.

          • I think the movement is good for raising awareness but above and beyond that, if you really want it to move forward and become something substantial, you really have to modernize some of it to modern standards in terms of ease of getting dressed, style, and making sure the clothing doesn’t fall off you too easily. In that way, it will become more acceptable to the general populace. I feel that modern comforts and standards for our everyday clothing is a barrier that needs to be overcome since few people will probably be willing to give it up.

          • Everyone is forgetting that all nations who still wear ‘traditional’ clothing are the nations that have never stopped wearing them. That’s why I said it’s akin to trying to bring back to toga and robe à la française. China no longer wears the type of hanfu that hanfu enthusiasts want us to wear, and we haven’t been wearing them for centuries.

            • After the Cultural Revolution, there were virtually no Mongolian throat singers left in China. But they didn’t think: “Hmm… nobody’s sung this way for 80 years, since the Qing Dynasty. Oh, well~ let’s just not.” They went to Mongolia, found some teachers, brought them back to China to teach the next generation of singers, and now we have to watch a five-minute segment of it on CCTV every Chinese New Year’s Eve.

              Now, the difference between the toga and hanfu is that the toga simply fell out of fashion, whereas hanfu was literally stripped from the Han people by the Manchu. It wasn’t “abandoned,” per se. There was no organic evolution or rejection of hanfu; it was forcibly taken away. Under such circumstances, it’s not uncommon for revivalist movements to arise given the opportunity.

              The revival of the Hebrew language is a successful example. And Korea has resurrected the practices of taekkyeon and the Korean pipa, both of which effectively died under Japanese occupation. Even the Renaissance began as a bunch of Italian guys pining after the long-gone ancient Greeks and Romans. (Though, I would be surprised if the hanfu movement sparks the next great Chinese renaissance.)

              The hanfu movement is like an adopted child looking for his birth parents. It’s not that the kid isn’t happy with his adoptive family, or that he thinks life would be better with his birth parents. But it’s part curiosity, part fantasy. It’s that offering of an alternative. It’s a part of his heritage with which he has no standing connection, but nonetheless still holds a legitimate claim to one. That’s the hanfu movement.

              • At what point can we no longer revive something?

                I sadly believe that hanfu is past that point.

                Hanfu lives on strong in drama and movies for those who love hanfu.

                • I imagine that’s a question for the individual wearer… I mean there’s always those forms of clothing, whether traditional or not, that are a hassle to wear and may even come apart easily but people still take the pains to wear it. I mean I tried the yukata before and I can see why Chinese people quickly moved on to other forms of clothing when they had the option from similar forms of clothing way back when. Based on my experience, you basically have to re-learn to walk and even that doesn’t always help. It’s only a matter of time before you have to do some adjusting.

                • Hi, I will repost a comment I recently posted in reply to another comment posted somewhere on this page. I think my reply answers your question, however keep in mind most of what I have to say about hanfu is my opinion, but I think it may be pretty accurate.

                  I am one of those people. I am all for the revival of hanfu in China. After all, the hanfu was discontinued only in recent times as the clothing that Han Chinese people wore before the Manchurians and not the Han Chinese forced the discontinuation of it. I think the reintroduction of traditional hanfu style clothing into Chinese society will happen, is already happening and will possibly continue to happen until almost all Chinese people wear it on a daily basis (work, school, home). However, this time, just like certain times in the past, the hanfu will change in design and ways to fit Chinese people’s modern taste and style with what is most relevant to the current day and age. Most of China’s dynasty’s have their own unique hanfu style and design. Large sleeve pocket, no sleeve pocket, tight hanfu, loose hanfu, 2 part hanfu, etc.. I’m sure modern Chinese people will take all of the foreign fashion and design they have been exposed to these past decades and slowly incorporate what Chinese people feel is good, comfortable or attractive into their own clothing. This clothing no matter how different or similar it may look to hanfu of the past will most likely be referred to as hanfu again (since hanfu can literally be translated into “Han people’s clothing”. There is a Confucius saying that goes something like this: “Learn everything. Once you do, leave out the things that are bad or harmful, and take in everything that is good and beneficial and make it your own.” I think this is the way Chinese gov and people will approach hanfu making it’s way into becoming more mainstream in Chinese society. They will create a new set of hanfu. Therefore I don’t think there is anything silly about the hanfu movement. I think the hanfu movement is only a natural movement that is happening in order for the majority Han Chinese ethnic group to realize the dream of having their own clothing to wear on special occasions or whenever they feel like wearing hanfu (kind of like the Indian Sari).

  2. This an awesome idea! Thanks for all the constant updates (I’ve been a lurker for a while) :) The clothes are beautiful!

    Ps. cfensi is my go to site for Chinese entertainment news!

  3. This is great! Hope you can also provide features on makeup styles through the ages and traditional male hairstyles, especiallly cool topknots.

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