The Great Movement of Restoring Authentic Chinese Clothing

Nowadays, the movement of restoring authentic Chinese Clothing is more and more influential. The pioneers who wear ancient styles of Chinese Clothing personally and show them in public deserve to be respected. If there are not their actions, the people still think that these clothes are just ancient things, not a kind of national symbol. About the misapprehensions of many people, some are funny. Some persons think these young people are dressed in Japanese Clothing (in Japanese, Japanese Clothing is named Wafuku (吴服) which means this style was from Wu (吴)’s area of China, and women’s dress is called Kimono), and even they think the TV drama “Han Wu the Great” (汉武大帝, about the whole life of Han Wu-Emperor[汉武帝] who was regnant from 140 BC to 87 BC) imitates Japanese styles. They actually don’t know that, Japanese learned many things from the Han and Tang Dynasties of ancient China. The director Hu Mei (胡玫) of this TV drama said sarcastically, we don’t imitate Japanese, but Japanese and Korean imitated our nation. And she said, she could give some persons who censured her drama a judgment by an ancient idiom “a person talks about historical books, but he actually forgets his own origin” (this idiom means a person forgets his ancestors and ancestral traditions).

Many of other people know the history that Japanese learned the clothing style from the Tang Dynasty of China. But they think the young men are dressed in ancient clothing or theatrical costumes. They don’t have any idea about national clothing, or they think their national clothing is cheongsam (it is called “Qipao”[旗袍] in Chinese) and Mandarin Coat (it is called “magua”[马褂] in Chinese, but foreigners give it a name “Tang Clothing”[唐装]). The persons, who don’t have any idea about national clothing, can't answer why the “ancient style” clothing with a long history of several thousand years is not the national clothing of Chinese. The persons, who think their national clothing is cheongsam and mandarin coat, can't answer why so-called “Tang Clothing” is completely different from the clothing style of the Tang Dynasty. Many people are willing to thirst for knowledge, so they find the truth in historical records, and they start to support the restoring of authentic Chinese Clothing.

The main supporters of restoring authentic Chinese Clothing are young Chinese who belong to the Han Chinese people (the main people of China). These young people include college students and white-collar persons because they have enough time and energy to exchange thoughts by Internet and bring their ideas into effect in realistic life. The main publicizing position is Internet. If there isn’t Internet, authentic Chinese Clothing would not have many supporters. Many actions are organized by Internet, and then they are practiced in realistic life. Because of the gradually increasing influence, many mass media and organizations start to pay attention to the movement of Chinese Clothing. Of course, there are affirmative ideas and negative ideas. Many mass media are evasive about the words “Chinese Clothing”, and they only call this style of clothing “Han Clothing” (汉服, or called “Hanfu” as Chinese spelling) and regard the actions as that Han's youths want to restore their Han's clothing. But a scholar of Chinese Academy of Social Science wrote an article and suggested regarding the clothing styles of Han and Tang Dynasties as the national clothing of Chinese.

In the twenty-one years before 2005, in twenty-one memorial ceremonies for Confucius (孔子) in Qufu (曲阜) which was the hometown of Confucius, ritual agents were dressed in cheongsam and mandarin coat of the Manchu’s Qing Empire. Recently, maybe the local officials wake up to a traditional ritual principle that ritual agents must wear their own national clothing in a memorial ceremony for a historical character from their people. It is a serious affront to wear the clothing of another ethnic group and give a memorial ceremony to a historical character . Ancient Chinese people thought a memorial ceremony with the clothing of another ethnic group was a knell that a country would perish. Since 2005, the ritual agents of the memorial ceremonies for Confucius in Qufu have been dressed in the clothing style of the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty was an important dynasty of the Han people. In 1368, the Han people repelled Mongols who had forcibly occupied China for 97 years, and built the Ming Empire. This empire restored the quality of Han which was eager to learn from other nations. Occidental Civilization was transmitted to the Orient by traders and missionaries. The emperors and ministers of the Ming Empire were very interested in Occidental things. Xu Guangqi (徐光启), an excellent scientist and a wise minister, said, “We want to surpass others, so we must communicate with others and understand them first. We want to understand others, so we must translate their languages first.” Xu Guangqi translated many technological works with the help of Matteo Ricci (利玛窦, 1552-1610), who was an Italian missionary and had been in China from 1583 to 1610. Matteo Ricci brought the Western advanced sciences and technologies of astronomy, geography, mathematics and agriculture to Chinese. If the Manchu which was a nomadic ethnic group didn't invade and destroy the Ming Empire, China would be a very advanced country. In 1644, Manchu invaded the Ming Empire, and Chinese people uncompromisingly resisted the cruel invaders. In 1661, Yongli(永历)-Emperor, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty was captured in Burma, and the next year he and his son were killed. The Ming Empire ended tragically. Now, the memorial ceremonies for Confucius with the clothing styles of the Ming Dynasty, and they show many people start to cherish the memory of the Ming Dynasty, the last empire of the Han people.

As we know, there were many styles of Chinese Clothing. The styles of the Zhou and Han Dynasties were similar. They were elegant, because the people of these dynasties attached importance to proprieties. The styles of the Jin (晋) Dynasty and the Southern Dynasties were splendid, because the people of these dynasties were in pursuit of enjoyment. After five nomadic ethnic groups brought calamities to Huaxia, some styles of other ethnic groups were accepted by the Han People such as round-neck garments. Round-neck garments mainly became official uniforms. The styles of the Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties were similar. After Mongolian Yuan Empire, the clothing of the Ming Dynasty mainly followed the styles of Song Dynasty. Now many supporters of restoring Chinese Clothing enjoy the clothing styles of the Ming Dynasty. I think this is because they cherish the memory of the tragic people of the Ming Dynasty.

Of course, the present movement of restoring Chinese Clothing is not revengeful. The goal of the movement is to restore our traditional culture and the soul of Huaxia. The root of the Huaxia Soul (华夏大义) is the Spring-Autumn and Warring-States Times of the Zhou Dynasty. Huaxia Soul is of loyalty, faith, propriety and righteousness. Huaxia Soul is gentle and humanistic. Our national clothing is a symbolic representation of the beauty of Huaxia. Maybe every supporter of restoring Chinese Clothing has his personal idea about the soul of Huaxia. I will hold the ideal Huaxia Soul what I understand all along.

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