Cheongsam and Mandarin Jacket of Manchu Ethnic Group

Because of the frigid living environment and the need for hunting life, in the past, nearly all the Manchu, no matter men and women, wore the gown with U-shaped sleeves. After Nurhachi established the “Eight Banner” system, the gown became the costume of “banner man”. That is why we called the gown “Cheongsam”(“Yijie” in Manchu).

Cheongsam can be classified into that of monolayer, cotton and fur. In the beginning of Qing Dynasty, the Cheongsam was the gown with the front, the stays, the left front, and the patches on four sides and without collar. Its design was very fitted and suitable for horse-riding and on-horse shooting. When going out for hunting, the Manchu people can put the solid food into their foreparts. This kind of Cheongsam has two comparatively prominent traits: the first one is no collar. To uniform the clothes and hat, Nurhachi collated and stipulated the rules and prescribed that “Each court dress must have a rebato and must be a mere garment in everyday life.” That is to say, daily clothes mustn’t have a collar and only the court dress can be added with a big shawl-shaped collar.

The second one is the so-called horse-hoof sleeve (U-shaped sleeve). That is to add a short cut of lunate sleeve broad in top and narrow in bottom to the narrow cuff, which is like the shape of a horse-hoof. The sleeves can be rolled up in daily life. However, in the course of hunting and fighting, the sleeves can be dropped to mantle hands and to warm hands as the gloves. At the same time, it doesn’t influence pulling the bow and toxophily, so it is also called “arrow sleeves”(in Manchu, it is called “Waha”). After Manchu became the ruler of the center plains, “putting down Waha” became a prescribed act in the Qing Dynasty ceremony. When the officers went to court to call on the emperor or the other princes and dukes, they should at first put down the U-shaped sleeves and then worshiped on bended knees, with both hands on the ground.

Customarily, there would be a short jacket outside the Cheongsam. This short jacket whose sleeves was long enough to reach the elbow, had a round collar and was long enough to reach the navel. Because this kind of jacket was first worn in the horse-riding and horse-shooting and was not only suitable for horse-riding and could keep warm as well, it was called “horse jacket”(mandarin jacket). In the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the mandarin jacket was the “army uniform” for the “Eight Banner” soldiers and later was gradually popular among the common people, which resulted in its usage as a ceremonial dress and its diversity in style and material.

After Manchu forced into the center plains, under the influence of the Han clothes with “large collar and large sleeves”, the style of Cheongsam began to have some changes. The arrow sleeves were changed into horn-shaped sleeves, the patches on four sides were changed to on both sides and the bounty laps were changed into narrow ones. The traditional gown with arrow sleeves had been worn as a ceremonial dress rather than the daily clothes and were worn only when the officers went to court and the common banner men went out formally. After the period of Jiaqing and Daoguang, the arrow sleeves became fewer and fewer. When it came to the 1930s, the old-fashioned gown with arrow sleeves were completely replaced by the long and cylindric gown with broad front and large sleeves. Since the 1940s, under the influence of the newly styled clothes, the man’s Cheongsam had been washed out and for the woman’s Cheongsam, the broad sleeves had been once again changed to narrow sleeves, the cylindric pattern had been changed to the succinct pattern with stays, the laps had been tightened and the gown was long enough to reach the ankle, which made the gown more fitted and become one of the most common clothes style for women from Manchu, Han and other nationalities. It is also favored by modern people.