When speaking of the Hanfu movement, the Internet and Hanminzu.com (then Haanen.net) work hand-in-hand. Back in 2002 its few members dedicated to the revival of Han Chinese studies and tradition, some suggested that the then-recent APEC conference (2001) has seriously blundered the Chinese tradition by “putting back on the braids of racial enslavement” in wearing Manchu-inspired clothing. After half a year of discussion, a person by the net name of Zhuangzhi Lingyun (壯志凌雲) decided to do what many only dream of – wear these so-called ancient clothing (古裝) that can only be seen on television dramas, opera stages, and in texts before the Qing. After he got his set of clothes by a tailor in Shanghai, he took it out and wore it for a stroll in his city of Zhengzhou. There was no immediate rave or the world noticing, until Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore) put the picture (left) with caption and a small article that the effect began to spread to Chinese communities throughout the world, gathering people to the site, and eventually beginning gatherings and walks that what we know as the “Hanfu Movement” became an actuality.
Let’s take a look now at a brief chronology of major events in the movement, as well challenges posed along the way.
February 14, 2002: Huaxiaxuemai (netname) publishes an essay “A lost Civilization” (Shiluo de Wenming), one of the first signifcant essays advocating for the return of Han Chinese clothing.
November 21, 2003: Wang Letian, a Zhengzhou local electical engineer, wears hanfu in public, marking the first instance of Hanfu worn in non-religious, academic, or other institutionalized context. The act was reported in an online Singapore publication. A month earlier Wang San wins the “Best Ethnic Clothing” award in the Miss International pageant with a reproduction of a Tang Dynasty outfit.
October 5, 2004: A group of 32 enthusiasts, adorning commissioned Hanfu, pay homage to General Yuan Conghuan in Beijing.
November 12, 2004: TianyazaiXiaoliu (netname) wears Hanfu to pay homage to Confucius during an official event that adorns Qing standard clothing. Hanfu becomes an issue of importance and a heated topic online.
2005: Debate on purpose and objective of Hanfu Revival Movement (for reviving a fashion, versus restoring a cultural image in a holistic perspective) caused rise of various other Hanfu sites in Chinese, various traditional coming-of-age ceremonies across the country (with the group ritual in Hunan University in May a highlight), rise of private Confucian tutelages. Creation of the Toronto Association for the Revival Hanfu (HanfuTor) in August.
2006: Focus on reviving traditional ritual, mannerisms, games, and holidays. Advocacy would have results by the next year. As a result, various net-shops appear to cater to the demand of clothing and accessories.
2007: In preparation for the Olympic year, the Hundred Scholars petition for Hanfu as Chinese Olympic dress Standard in February, but was turned down after 2 months. There were also some discussion regarding using Hanfu as the standard of academical dress in China, and even as the uniform of the national image. However, despite various advocacy movements and promotions in the top universities, no changes to the institutions have been made, Regardless, recognition of the term “Hanfu” becomes prevalent in urban areas. Some net-shops take to actual locations, mainly in ‘traditional cultural districts’ of certain Chinese cities.
2008: Continuation of ritual restoration, Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies show Hanfu as historical costume; Hot debate of Hanfu standards (Ming standard vs. Zhou/other standards) on Hanminzu.com