Chinese clothing has a long history, which leaves a precious heritage for the world. With five thousand years of Chinese history and 56 ethnic groups, Chinese textile printing and dyeing technology had led the world for thousands of years. Almost every dynasty has its distinctive characteristics of clothing culture, and every ethnic group dresses differently. China is the most developed country in clothing culture in the world.
Chinese traditional clothing strives to be harmonious between heaven and man. Heaven and man are the relations between the universe and man. Due to the admiration of heaven and the harmony with nature, the traditional clothing was designed to be more relaxed and elegant, with little restriction on human body, which is the corresponding relationship between heaven and earth.
1.Clothes in Shang and Zhou Dynasties
The clothing material in Shang dynasty is mainly leather, silk and linen. The slaveholders and nobles usually worn colorful silk garments. Slaves and commoners were generally dressed in natural linen, ko-hemp cloth or cilice cloth. The fabric color of this period is warm for many, especially yellow and red, between light brown and dark brown. The clothes don’t have buttons, usually a belt tied around the waist, and some hung with jade ornaments.
2.Clothes in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods
During the Spring and Autumn period, the Embroidery process made great progress, making the clothing materials more elaborate with more varieties. The clothes of upper societies is decent and the lower classes are narrow. In the style, the most popular ones are Shenyi and Hufu. Shenyi has the meaning of keeping your body inside. It was the casual dress of the scholar-bureaucrat, and the formal wear of the common people. In 307 B.C., the King Wuling of Zhao State advocated dressing in Hufu, which were convenient for riding and shooting activity.
3.Clothes in Qin and Han Dynasties
The clothing in Qin dynasty has no great difference with that in the Warring States period, and the basic style of Shenyi was remained. Clothing for men and women both are overlapped and rightward collars with narrow sleeves , whose purfle and waist belt are decorated with colorful, delicate pattern. The style of men’s clothing in Han dynasty is roughly divided into two kinds: the curved hem and straight-front robe. Shenyi is the style of curved hem. Straight-front robe is common in the Eastern Han, but not a formal wear. In the Han dynasty, a costume system(Yufu) appeared. There were more than 20 kinds of formal wear, court dress and casual clothing for emperor and allofficial. The class distinctions in clothing were already apparent.
Hanfu is the traditional clothing of Chinese Han nationality. It formed a perfect clothing system in Han Dynasty and popularize to the masses, and also influenced the whole Han cultural circle through Confucianism and Chinese law.
4.Clothes in Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties
In the northern and southern dynasties, when the northern minorities invaded the central plains and interplay with locals, the clothing were also changed greatly. Especially a large number of Hu people made Hufu the most fashionable clothes at that time. Close-fitting, round collar and slit are the main features of Hufu.
5.Sui and Tang Dynasties
During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the development of clothing, whether in material and style, presented an unprecedented splendid scene. Whatever clothes of officials or common people, men or women, all showed their open mind and pioneering spirit, which fully reflected the distinct features of time and nationality.
6.Clothes in the Song, Liao, Jin and Yuan Dynasties
The clothes in Song dynasty basically kept the style of Han national dress, and that in Liao, Western Xia, Jin and Yuan dynasties followed the style of Khitan, Tangut, Nvzhen and Mongolian respectively. The costumes of various ethnic groups are exchange and blending once more. Officials usually wore robe with big sleeves and carried the rules of hanging “fish bags” with fishes in made from golden, silver or copper around the waist to see the difference of official rank .
The women of the Tangut often wore lapel Hufu, with exquisite embroidery on the collar. The Khitan and the Jurchen were generally in overclothes featured with narrow sleeves, round collar and knee-length, as well as long boots on foot, which were suitable for hunting at any time. The women wore long gown with narrow sleeves, overlapped and leftward collar, which was long enough to the dorsum of the foot. Zhisunfu (Jisum in Mongolian) are the common clothes in the Yuan dynasty, tight and narrow, with many pleats at the waist, which was convenient for mounting and dismounting the horse.
7.Clothes in Ming and Qing
The clothes in Ming and Qing dynasties have great differences. In the Ming dynasty, Han traditional clothing was most common, while Manchu clothing dominated in Qing dynasty. Both had distinct features of class. At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the clothes was required to continue the styles of the Tang. The official’s costume also use Futou and round collar robe. The clothes of the Qing Dynasty had a substantial influence on modern fashion.
8.Clothes in Modern times
The clothing of the Chinese entered a new era. With more communication with foreign countries, class rules of clothing were break down and traditional clothing was increasingly influenced by western and replaced by many new varieties. Since the 1920s, women love cheongsam, which has gradually become a lasting fashion. From 1950s – 1970s, Zhongshan suit became the common clothes. Women’s wear was influenced by the Soviet union and one-piece dress swept the city.
Famous Traditional Chinese Clothes Types
Hanfu, the traditional clothing of the Han nationality,“Began the Yellow Emperor, prepare for Yao and Shun”, came from the Yellow Emperor system Mianfu and was fixed in the Zhou dynasty. In different periods of history, Hanfu has some changes, but overlapped and rightward collars are invariable. A whole set of Hanfu usually consists of three layers: a small coat (underwear), a middle coat(inner garment), and a overcoat. Until the Han Dynasty, the Hanfu was adopted and promoted by the ruling class. The Mianfu of Topcoat-plus-Skirt style(separate tops and lower garment) is the official dress of the emperors and officials. Shenyi (Gown) is the casual clothing of the officials and scholars, and Served Ru skirt is worn by women. The labouring class generally wears short clothing in imperfect condition.
The name “Tangzhuang” was originally created by overseas Chinese people due to the prosperous of the Tang Dynasty. Chinese people are also called “Tang People” by foreigners. In fact, Tang suit (or Tangzhuang) has two varieties in Chinese culture. One is a kind of Chinese clothing, evolves from the Hanfu, featured with overlapped and rightward collars and tied with a sash. The representatives are Qixiongruqun(waistband above the chest), Tangyuanlingpao(round collar), Jiaolingruqun(collar in the shape of letter Y). The other one is a kind of pseudo-traditional Chinese jacket with a straight collar. This kind of Tang suit has four characteristics: mandarin collar with symmetrical front opening; one piece of sleeves and clothes, with buttons down the front and right angle button.
Cheongsam or Qipao in Chinese, the traditional dress of Chinese women in the world, is honored as the quintessence of Chinese national culture and the national dress of Chinese female. After 1920s, it became the most popular clothing of women, which was determined by the government of the republic of China as one of the national dresses in 1929. After 1980s, as the traditional culture being revalued and with the effects of film and TV culture, fashion show and beauty contest, cheongsam was gradually prevalent in the mainland, and all over the world. Cheongsams are close fitting, and draw the outline of the wearer’s body. The classical cheongsams mostly used straight lines, loose body piece and with split ends on both sides. The chest circumference and waistline is closer to the size of the dress. Modern cheongsam is designed more close fitting and accompanied with sleeves in western style. Its length of the body part and sleeves are greatly shortened. The design of Cheongsam got various inventions like ruffled collar, bell-like sleeves and black lace frothing.
4. Chinese Tunic Suit
Chinese tunic suit, also called Mao suit or Zhongshan suit, named after the Chinese revolutionary pioneer Dr. Sun Yat-sen, was designed on the basis of Japanese student costumes. It has a turn-down collar and four pockets with flaps. Mao Suit was named because the famous political figure Mao Zedong often worn it. It was once one of the most popular standard clothes for Chinese men. After the 1980s, with the deepening of reform and opening up, western-style suit and other fashions gradually became popular. It is worth mentioning that Chinese leaders are still used to wearing Chinese tunic suit when attending major domestic events.
5. Clothing of the Ethnic Minorities
Ethnic minorities wear their national costume in the daily life and the occasion of festival etiquette. China’s 55 ethnic minorities clothing, due to the difference of geographical environment, climate, customs and habits, economic, cultural, forms different styles, colors, and with distinctive national features. Generally there are two types: long gown and short coat. People in gown wear hats and boots, and the people in short coats wear headcloth and shoes. Some techniques of Chinese ethnic minorities such as embroidery and batik are much developed, and are widely used in making clothing adornments. This is another feature of their costumes.