Welcome to the Hanfu Topic Mainpage. Below is the historical outline of Hanfu, or Han Chinese Clothing. Subpage links are available at the bottom of this page, as well here:
Powerpoint Presentation on Hanfu Designs << Must see!
- Overview of Modern Han Chinese Clothing Classification and Systems
- Shoufu: An Introduction for The Clothing for the Head, and a listing of Shoufu
- Ethnic Han Chinese Rituals (Modern generally-accepted standards): =Coming of age=, =Archery Ritual=
More subpages to be built under these major headings.
This is the REVISED version of the Han Ethnic Clothing (Hanfu) overview. For the previous version, please visit the subpage. The link is at the end of this page.
Since 1644 to 1911, Han Chinese clothing and hairstyles were taboo due to Manchurian Qing government policy intending to dissipate Han ethnic unity and assimilate them with the Manchu minority. By the late 19th century, Han Chinese scholar Kang Youwei proposed that China (which covers the reach of the entire Qing Empire) was one large “cultural family”, and named it as Zhonghua Minzu. Also due to Western imperialism, Chinese culture (Zhonghua Wenhua) has become a mélange of minority cultures and what little remains of Han tradition. In the decades following the Opening Reforms of 1976, Chinese scholars and citizens began to review their recent history and culture, creating a wave for studying Confucian and Daoist texts.
After the APEC conference of 2001, a new variation of the Qing-era Magua came into popularity with the market worldwide; Chinese citizens and ethnic Chinese have dubbed it as the representative image of Chinese fashion along with the Qipao, literally “robes of the Banner People (Manchus)”. Also, absorbing the new revisionism in Chinese historiography, popular media have created a general following of Qing supporters through soap operas, popular fiction and non-fiction, and television lectures.
A relatively quiet Chinese Internet forum named “Hanwang – The Gateway to a Grandeur and Splendor (Huaxia) culture” (formerly haanen.net, now hanminzu.com) was actively discussing the implications of the APEC 2001 image and concluded that the representative image of the Han Chinese should not be once again be burdened by the remnant images of Qing rule, but neither should convert to Western dress, as per the official government line. Realizing that despite the ban of Han Chinese traditional clothing lifted since the dawn of the Republic, the social taboo of this kind of clothing was left unchanged since its inception in 1644 – that is, only the deceased, Daoist and Buddhist clergy, and the theatre stage provide the setting for such kinds of clothing and headgear to be worn. Due to the influence of the Sinic circle since the 2nd Century BCE, traditional clothing of the Koreans, Japanese, Tibetans, Mongols, Okinawans, and Viet share the basic designs of the Han tradition. To this end, when traditional Han Chinese clothing is worn outside of the mentioned occasions, such as the earlier social gatherings organized by regional Hanwang members, they are often jeered and mis-recognized as Korean or Japanese (both nations somewhat negatively opinionated by the Chinese due to the Sino-Japanese Wars and the Cold War).
Hanfu – The material response
Although there have been scattered attempts at reviving Hanfu – literally “Han Clothing”, since the Republican periods of 1920’s to the 40’s, and then again in 2001. In February 2002, an essay titled “A Lost Civilization (Shiluo de Wenming)” by a writer under the alias Huaxia Xuemai (“Huaxia’s descendent”) summarized the history of the decline of Han Chinese culture, and called for the return of Han tradition and clothing. Later on another Hanwang member created his own Hanfu and wore it outside, but was largely unknown outside of the circle, due to lack of media support. In November 2003, Lianhe Zaobao, the Singaporean newspaper, gave a small article about an electrical engineer in Zhengzhou named Wang Letian, Hanwang’s second person to attempt promoting Hanfu by wearing it out into daily life. The article was spread around via forum reposting and quickly awareness of Hanwang and Hanfu grew beyond geographical borders, resulting in appearances of Hanfu supporters and events worldwide. In North America, the Hanfu movement became organized through an independent group known as The Toronto Association for the Revival of Hanfu (or HanfuTor in short). Communication and events in these movements and groups are largely organized online, and the natures of such events are usually similar to that of the first Hanwang attempts, by making one’s own Hanfu and then wearing it out in public, while explaining to others the historical reason and motivating others to follow suit. By the end of 2006, Hanwang has inspired a chain of supporters, cultural promoters, artists, academics and researchers, and tailors into a business flow, and some degrees of commercialization has been established.
Chinese paintings and various source texts, such as the Book of Rites and all dynastic standards prior to Qing were referenced for the 21st Century Hanfu, but in the early days most newcomers often recall images from television series as their standard of reference, which affected the authenticity of style, colour, and cutting in clothing. While no official demographics exist for the scale and classification of Hanfu supporters, judging from event photos and reports the age range varies from 0~65, with university students and young professionals born after 1980 as the main driving force of social events. Reflecting the spending levels of this group, materials used in the making of modern-day Hanfu are usually obtainable in the open markets, and price ranges from 300~600 Chinese Yuan for a set of semi-formal clothing, and 1,000~2,500 Yuan for wedding and ceremonial gowns, as well as high-end silk robes.
Other relevant material cultures affected
Since 2006, Hanwang members have been searching for methods to increase awareness of Han Chinese tradition among Chinese citizens, and various petitions have been raised to authorities to instill change, but all have been rejected for various reasons, ranging from deeming Hanfu as anachronistic, naturally obsolete, and suspect of Han Chauvinist ideologies. However, these petitions have caused in the oncoming years for city and provincial authorities in central and southern China to run “Han cultural events” on their own initiative, as well as revising the standards and clothing used in existing ceremonies, such as Qufu’s annual Confucius homage rite. However, the quality of these fabrications vary greatly, ranging from authentic reproductions to repulsively unaesthetic.
From Hanfu group gatherings, an interest for the Confucian, Daoist, and other Chinese classic texts re-emerge via study groups, establishment of private tutelages, and appreciation/discussion forums online. Related traditional arts such as guqin, weiqi, painting and calligraphy are also brought into attention.
Political implications, taboos and the Internet
As taken from Hanwang, the purpose of Hanfu restoration is for it to act as an icon to restore the rites and rituals of Han culture, along with traditional values and a sense of morality. This also implicates that the Manchurian Qing and Mongolian Yuan regimes were nothing short of detrimental to Han Chinese civilization by destroying it and limiting it from growth. This ideology is dubbed Hanism (Han benwei zhuyi ) – a view that conflicts with the current PRC historiography due to their new policies on multiethnic coexistence, effectively rendering the portrayal of history between ethnicities now recognized as Chinese as one great internal civil conflict. To this end, the majority of mainland Chinese netizens attack Hanist views on forums and news sites by emotionally charged responses and spam mail. In October 2008, Huang Haiqing, a prominent Hanfu promoter slapped Prof. Yan Chongnian, a 74 year-old scholar on Manchurian history twice on the face and was detained for 15 days, in addition to a heavy fine. The incident rallied support on the Hanist side, but conflicts between the government and Hanist faction has been made increasingly severe.
The initial rejection of Hanfu by pro-Qing and pro-government view supporters has been a undertone in early news reports of Hanfu events, including a report by Jinghua Shibao on October 6, 2004 that used the term “joss clothes” (shouyi) to derogate Hanfu, which was promptly attacked by Hanwang netizens. On December 7, the case was officially litigated, and the news company dissolved without a trace.
Due to different regional backgrounds and political views, discussion of various key points in Chinese history related to the ethnic discussion, such as the rise and fall of the Republican government, has again become somewhat taboo on the forums, as it causes more internal conflict than for the benefit of cultural promotion. From 2006 to present, NTDTV and The Epoch Times, the de facto voice of the Falun Dafa, has been attempting to use Hanfu as part of the publicity in their anti-Communist campaign. Since the Falun Gong political agenda is contrary to the Han Restoration movement (e.g. supporting Tibet, Uyghur, and Manchu separatism), and openly reject Hanist ideology by written means and changing Hanfu standards on their own (e.g. wearing the collars backwards), knowing members of the Hanfu movement refuse to participate in any related events, as well openly criticize these organizations for hijacking Chinese tradition for “anti-Chinese” ends.
Internally, due to conflicts over management and free speech, Hanwang has experienced several generations of moderating personnel changes. As early as June 2004, arguments between the Hanwang administrators have led to power struggles and mutual banishments. From 2005 to 2008, at least one new major Hanfu forum is created due to these power struggles and differences of opinion of various topics. Currently, there are two Hanwang’s, with the new one operated by the banished founding administrators, under the former name “Haanen” under the URL haanen.com.cn, has been established in several months previous, and a tracing history of the conflict is undergoing review. Both sites denounce the other as counterfeit, and the administrators from both sites are unwelcome figures in the other.
Ambitions, reality, and fad
Since Hanfu is an umbrella term for all Han traditional clothing, its styles and occasions vary to a large degree among eras and class. Although to meet up with similar standards in Japan and Korea, most clothing reproduced in the Hanfu movement are based on the designs worn by the Shi or literati class, with some exceptions for specific purposes (such as martial arts and sports). Due to climate changes and varying aesthetics and practices over the epochs, some designs were either unique to the period or have become obsolete over time, hence when different makers referenced various designs they are addressed by dynasty name as well as technical feature, such as “Han-style double-wrap curved hem deep-robe ”. This has caused misunderstanding and confusion especially between amateurs of ‘ancient clothes’, promoters, and people who oppose the restoration.
Furthermore, heated discussions on certain uncommon design elements in more recent designs have created several factionalisms within the promoters’ group, over the issues of the tie cord button (a feature adapted by Manchu clothing and seen on the Qipao collar today), standup collar, and whether or not to accept previously eliminated designs (such as the double-wrap robe) back into modern life.
Despite being far from the initial ambitions to convert all of China and Han Chinese to wear Hanfu during occasions representing the culture, the difficult political situation and ambivalent general opinion leaves the influence of the movement little more than a fad, both inside and outside China. Due to the lack (inability, and refusal) of single leadership, as well as the censorship powers by the Chinese government, it is difficult to foresee the future of this movement given the instability of current Chinese politics and general opinion. Due to the membership boom following the general commercialisation of Hanfu, the number of people who are in the movement simply to appreciate the clothing but not for the cultural and political views have taken a significant proportion to the group’s demographics. However, it is clear that the knowledge of Hanfu promoters is too great for the commoner to bear with, and the limitations of the knowledge and know-how further restricts the growth of the group. From these various external and internal factors, to much lamentation of the knowledge bearers, the Hanfu movement at the current stage is no more influential, or different in nature for the matter, from yet another fashion or cult fad.