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‘Lifestyle rather than performance’: a visual guide to wearing Chinese hanfu | SCMP Graphics

🌈 Abstract

The article explores the growing trend of young Chinese people wearing hanfu, the traditional clothing of the Han Chinese people. It discusses the cultural significance of hanfu, the debates within the hanfu community on how to wear it in modern times, and the economics behind the hanfu industry.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Tips on Wearing Hanfu

1. What are some of the common ways that hanfu enthusiasts balance honoring ancient culture, looking good, and being practical for daily wear?

  • Mix modern clothes and makeup with hanfu
  • Mix items from different dynasties
  • Shorten hemlines for comfort and ease of movement
  • Wear a modern outer garment to tone down the outfit
  • Use modern materials like 3D printed resin instead of traditional gold or jade for headpieces
  • Some girls wear male-inspired hanfu for personal style and self-expression

2. How do hanfu enthusiasts advise newcomers to avoid buying cheap knockoffs? Hanfu enthusiasts recommend looking out for certain terms associated with knockoff products, such as "ancient costume", "female divinity", "ethnic style", "performance", and "imperial concubine". They encourage people to join their groups to get information on acquiring authentic hanfu.

[02] Cultural Significance of Hairstyles and Headpieces

1. What is the cultural significance of hairstyles and headpieces in Han Chinese culture?

  • Cutting hair was seen as harmful to the body, as hair was considered a gift from one's parents. This led to the practice of coiling up or wearing elaborate hairstyles instead.
  • Hairstyles also signified social status, with leaving all the hair untied considered a bad habit.
  • This belief in preserving one's body as a gift from parents is rooted in the Confucian concept of "filial piety" or respect for one's parents.

2. How do modern hanfu enthusiasts style their hair for their outfits? Modern hanfu enthusiasts often purchase semi-readymade wigs to add volume and style their hair, using ancient paintings and sculptures as inspiration.

[03] The Rise and Fall of Traditional Chinese Clothing

1. What happened to traditional Chinese clothing over time?

  • China's clothing system has a long history dating back to the Xia dynasty (2100BC) and went through various changes over time.
  • By the end of the Qing dynasty (1911AD), western-style clothing had become increasingly popular among the upper class, and traditional Chinese clothing was gradually phased out.

[04] The Hanfu Industry Chain

1. How do academic and cultural studies influence the modern hanfu industry? Institutions like the China Silk Museum in Hangzhou host exhibitions showcasing research and findings about ancient Chinese clothing. These exhibitions have a strong influence on the annual hanfu trend, guiding modern hanfu designers as they create new garments.

2. What is the current state of the hanfu industry in China?

  • Cao County in Shandong Province is the biggest hanfu export center in China, with over 2,000 hanfu-related enterprises.
  • There are numerous hanfu organizations across China that promote activities like fashion shows and performances.
  • Some tourist attractions offer free admission to people wearing hanfu.

3. How do people typically purchase hanfu products?

  • Hanfu rental services have gained popularity, especially in ancient cities, allowing visitors to experience traditional Chinese clothing.
  • The majority of individual customers purchase hanfu products through e-commerce platforms like Taobao, spending between 100 to 500 yuan (US$14-69) on a single piece.
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