The Influence of Chinese Clothing

Ancient China was greatly famed for her illustrious civilization, and she was the model of the Oriental civilization during thousands of years. Korea and Japan, the two neighbors of China, were deeply influenced by ancient Chinese civilization, from the clothing to the soul. Japanese learned mainly from the Han and Tang Dynasties of China, while Korean learned mainly from the Song and Ming Dynasties of China. So the two nations have many differences. Japanese digested the warrior spirit of the Han and Tang Dynasties, but Korean were immersed in the gentle principles of Confucianism. Their national clothing was from the Han clothing of ancient China, but still has some differences. Japanese Kimono (和服) is the living sample of the standard Chinese clothing, but the traditional official garment (now it is used in sacrificial ceremonies) of Japan is completely different from Chinese clothing and near to the original clothing of Japan. Korean Hanbok (韩服) has some special features, but the traditional official garment (now it is used in sacrificial ceremonies) of Korea is the living sample of the official garment of the Song Dynasty. Undeniably, nowadays Japanese and Korean are like ancient Chinese people more than modern Chinese, from the clothing to the soul. If spirits really exist in the world, how despairing our great ancestors would be when they watch their offspring!

Korean Hanbok is the traditional clothing of Korea. In recent years Korean Hanbok show its charm through “Korean Wave” brought by Korean teleplays and movies. In the above picture, the woman is Lee Yeong-ae (李英愛, 이영애) who acted Seo Jang-Geum (徐長今, 서장금) in the TV drama "Dae Jang-Geum" (大長今, 대장금). "Dae Jang-Geum" is about the story of Seo Jang-Geum, a woman doctor in ancient Korea. The TV drama is not high-cost but high-quality. It perfectly shows the culture, proprieties and traditional medicine of Korea. Another Korean TV drama, “Hur Jun” (許浚, 허준), is about the story of a famous Korean doctor Hur Jun (also pronounced as “Heo Jun” in Korean language). Hur Jun and other several official doctors wrote a great medical work “the Precious Mirror of the Oriental Medicine” (東醫寶鑑, 동의보감, pronounced as “Dongui Bogam” in Korean language) from 1596 to 1610.

About traditional Korean medical works, another book named “the Classified Collection of Medical Prescriptions” (醫方類聚, 의방류취) was also memorable. This work was written by Kim Ye-mong (金禮蒙, 김예몽) and other Korean official doctors from 1443 to 1445. It collects more than fifty thousand prescriptions from one hundred and fifty-two medical works of ancient China before the fifteenth century. It also collects prescriptions from a Korean medical book “the Concise Prescriptions of Royal Doctors” (御醫撮要方, 어의촬요방) which was written by Choi Chong-jun (崔宗峻, 최종준) in 1226 and also a collection of Chinese prescriptions. The book “the Classified Collection of Medical Prescriptions” has very important research value, because it keeps the contents of many ancient Chinese medical books which had been lost for a long time.

The traditional medicine of Korea was from the traditional medicine of ancient China, but in today's China there is not a TV drama or a movie which shows the excellent culture of traditional medicine though there are some teleplays related to traditional medicine. In China, only an old movie named “Li Shizhen” (李时珍) in 1956 and an old TV drama named “Zhang Zhongjing” (张仲景) in 1986 were memorable. It should be pointed out that, as the movie “The Emperor and the Assassin” (荆轲刺秦王), the TV drama “Zhang Zhongjing” was financed and copyrighted by Japan, though the director and actors were Chinese. Why? The doctors of Kanpou (the Japanese pronunciation of the words "Han Medicine") in Japan enthusiastically worship Zhang Zhongjing who was called “Medical Sage” (医圣).

Japanese Kimono, the traditional clothing of Japan, was modeled on normal Chinese Clothing in the Tang Dynasty. A Japanese woman's Kimono has a decorative bow behind her back. This is a difference between Chinese Clothing and Kimono. However, Kimono was modeled on normal Chinese Clothing of the Wu (吴) area (Nowadays this area is Jiangsu Province. In the Zhou Dynasty and in the Three-Empires Period there was the Wu Empire). So the other name of Kimono is Wafuku (吴服, or called “Gofuku”) in Japanese. "Wafuku" is the inflexion of the Chinese pronunciation "Wu Fu" (吴服, the clothing of Wu).

The left picture is the wedding photo of Yamaguchi Momoe (山口百惠) and Tomokazu Miwura (三浦友和) who are famous Japanese actress and actor. Yamaguchi Momoe and Tomokazu Miwura have played together leading roles in many movies and TV dramas such as “the Doubt about Blood” (赤い疑惑, pronounced as “Akai Giwaku” in Japanese language)and "the Dancing Girl of Izu" (伊豆の踊子, pronounced as “Izu no Odoriko” in Japanese language). Yamaguchi Momoe was not only an actress, but also a singer. The theme song of the TV drama “the Doubt about Blood” was sung by herself. From 1970s to 1980s, she had a magic charm that had attracted young audience from not only Japan but also China. At that time, in China there was not Korean Wave, but the Japanese wave that Yamaguchi Momoe brought. In 1980 the woman who often played tragic roles retired from the singer-actress life at the age of 21, and became the devoted wife of Tomokazu Miwura. She is the undisputed model of the Oriental women…

The right picture is that a Japanese actress keeps "seiza" (正坐) which was the classic sitting posture from ancient China before the Song Dynasty. This sitting posture is gentle and graceful. In the times of the classic sitting posture, from the Xia Dynasty to the Shang Dynasty, from the Zhou Dynasty to the Qin Dynasty, from the Han Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese nation won the great honor. In the memorable years, our armymen with their wives and children walked leisurely along the soft sand beach of the Lelang Sea (乐浪海, in modern times the sea is called “the Sea of Japan”), or ran excitedly in the charming forest of the Jiaozhi Region (交趾郡, modern-day Vietnam), while our diplomats attended the royal banquets in the countries of the Middle Asia, and our young men fought bravely against the Huns… At that time, the Chinese nation called herself Huaxia. In this name, “Hua” (华) meant beauty, while “Xia” (夏) meant greatness. We still remember the confident smile of the people at that time…

The two pictures are the stills from a Japanese movie "Genji: A Thousand-Year Love" (千年の恋 ひかる源氏物語). In the left photo, the girl is the future queen. She sits under the trees of pink cherry blossoms and let an artist paint her picture. In the right photo, there is a royal ceremony. The movie is adapted from "the Tale of Genji" (源氏物语), the most famous one of ancient Japanese novels. "The Tale of Genji" was written by a woman named Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部) in the 11th Century, and it is about the romances of a young noble man Genji (源氏) and several women. At that time, Japan was in the Heian (平安) period which was from A.D 794 to AD1185, and the capital was Kyoto (京都). The novel "The Tale of Genji" shows the vivid scenes of the Heian Period. So does the movie. So if you want to know about the classical culture and traditional lifestyle of ancient Japanese, this movie is recommended.

In the Asuka (飛鳥) period which was one of the historic periods of Japan from AD 538 to AD 710, Japanese started to model themselves after Chinese, but they were too self-confident of their forces, so they wanted their country to be equal to China. In 607, a Japanese envoy Onono Imoko (小野妹子) visited China and presented the letter of credence to Sui Yang-Emperor (隋炀帝), one of the most despotic emperors of China. The letter said, “The Heaven-Son of the land where the sun rises greets the Heaven-Son of the land where the sun moves down.” Sui Yang-Emperor was seriously enraged. There were two reasons: the first one was that "Heaven-Son" was the noblest title of the supreme ruler of China; the second one was that "the sun moves down" meant decline. How did Sui Yang-Emperor tolerant of such a letter? However, the cruel emperor finally didn't kill the Japanese envoy. Why? At that time Sui Yang-Emperor attached the most importance to preparing for the war to punish Koguryo (高句丽) which was a very strong country founded by ancient Korean nation, and, in the heart of the emperor, Koguryo was more important than Japan. Later, Suiko (推古), the female king of Japan, apologized to the Chinese envoy who was sent to visit Japan. However, the conflict between Japan and China was not over. Japanese seeked for the hegemony in the Korean Peninsula, and competed against China. Finally, the two nations fought afloat in the Baeckchon River (modern-day Keum River in the South Korea) in AD 663. The warships of Japan were much more than the warships of the Tang Empire of China, but at last the navy of Japan was utterly defeated by the navy of China, and the commander of Japanese navy was killed. The battle caused Japanese to prostrate themselves before Chinese. When China annexed Koguryo in AD 668, the Japanese king sent envoys to celebrate the victory of China. The honeymoon between China and Japan came. During the Nara (奈良) period which was one of the historic periods of Japan from AD 710 to AD 794, Japanese people enthusiastically studied the excellent culture, systems and technics from China.

In the Heian period, Japanese digested what they learnt from the Tang Dynasty of China. In AD 894, the Japanese king Uda (宇多) stopped sending envoys to China because he thought his country had learned enough from China. In AD 907, in China, there was a drastic upheaval: the Tang Empire collapsed, and Chinese generals fought against each other. In AD 960, the Song Dynasty was founded. The Song’s emperors attached importance to literature and restricted the actions of generals in order to avoid the collapse of the Tang Empire. The unwise policies caused that the warrior spirit of China completely disappeared and the Chinese people suffered disastrously from foreign aggressions. At the same time, Japanese people tried to develop their own culture, while they kept non-governmental relations with Chinese people. In the Heian period, kana (假名, Japanese syllabic characters) appeared and gradually became popular, and Japanese literature was very flourishing. There were some literary works written by the woman writers of Japan, such as “the Gossamer Diary” (蜻蛉日記) written by the mother of Fujiwara no Michitsuna (藤原道綱) and “the Diary of Izumi Shikibu” (和泉式部日記) written by Izumi Shikibu (和泉式部). Murasaki Shikibu, the most famous woman writer of Japan, had two literary works: “the Diary of Murasaki Shikibu” (紫式部日記) and her well-known novel “the Tale of Genji”. The Heian Period was really an important era that Japanese style formed.

Bhutanese Gho, the traditional clothing of Bhutan, shows the great influence of the Han Civilization. The man in the left photo is the prince of Bhutan. In the right photo, the children are the students of Bhutan. We often say that Japanese and Korean have inherited the clothing-style of ancient China. But once I read a magazine about travel, I was very pleasantly surprised at the traditional clothing of Bhutan. Bhutan is a Buddhist country, and people wear traditional clothing and enjoy modern life every day. This shows traditional clothing don't encumber modern daily life. The Han civilization had been the root of the Oriental style for thousands of years, so it is proper that modern China revives her authentic national clothing which is called "Huaxia Clothing" or "Han Clothing".

Oriental Style
Since February 6th, 2006
Copyright © Yike Jiang