Definitions & Table of Contents

Original text by Yizhanfeng, translated by Satsuki Shizuka
Ideas and opinions expressed on this page do not reflect the stance of Toronto Guqin Society or of the translator, unless otherwise specified.

Definition of “Modern Hanfu”

The term more specifically is defined as “proper modern Han Chinese clothing”, referring to the modern equivalent of our Han Chinese traditional clothing. This definition includes the following qualities:

1. Tradition
Modern hanfu is the traditional clothing of the Han Chinese in our modern epoch. It is in accordance with the basic shapes and features with traditional hanfu, and is the actualization and continuation of traditional Han Chinese clothing in our time. From the Sage Kings to the Ming period, basic elements have stayed the same over the millenniae, such as cross collars, covering to the right, tied sashes, and more. Hence “Mao suits”, “Qipao” and other modern clothing without such historical tradition do not fall within the scope of modern Hanfu.

2. Ethnicity
Modern hanfu is the traditional clothing of the Han Chinese in this era, hence do not include clothing from ethnic minorities, such as the Mongols and Manchus.

3. Modernity
Due to differences and changes in economic and social practices, modern hanfu is not a complete and rigid portmanteau of past standards, but rather under the pretense of abiding by basic forms of the clothing, a fluid redevelopment in shape, colour, and pattern usage, allowing hanfu to shine in the uniqueness of our time.

The definitions of the modern Hanfu System of Objects

According to our modern definition of hanfu and establishing the purpose of establishing the system, our standards include the following:

1. All hanfu with modern meaning are to be included in this system. This system should give a holistic perspective, and any article of hanfu with a modern meaning should be included. Hence any article of hanfu without a modern raison d’etre would not be included in the system. For example, underpants which have been essentially replaced by substitutes today are not of value even revived would not be considered in our system.

2. Hanfu with feudal connotations or imperial hierarchy, such as the Emperor’s various clothing, are not included, nor is the structure of the hierarchy used for classifying the clothing recognized here. As modern society is no longer a feudal one, the concept of “exceeding rank” no longer applies, and anyone has the right to choose clothing to their liking. Aside from special attire such as academic gowns used to distinguish different degrees of achievement, any social rank or identity system should not appear in this current modern hanfu system. The Emperor’s clothing and other pieces of garments with feudalistic connotations should not be, aside from research or performance purposes, be worn by modern people.
[Translator’s note: Please note that the common misnomer ‘fengjian’ or ‘feudalism’ is constantly referred to here is not recognized in the West or in academia for describing the central bureaucracy system in Imperial China from 221BCE-1911CE, but is used due to ‘political correctness’ with Marxist rhetoric of social development in the People’s Republic of China.]

3. Modern hanfu does not include clothing from ethnic minorities. As hanfu refers to the traditional clothing of the Han Chinese, this system of objects does not include the clothing of ethnic minorities such as the Manchus, Mongols, or Miao (Hmong). While objective factors (such as mix-and-match) exist, it is a right and action of the individual wearer, and is not considered as part of the scope of this system.

4. The system does not include period fashion with relatively short-lived existances in history. Certain articles of historic hanfu designs with strong flavors of period design are not included in this system.

5. The system only includes proper hanfu, and does not include hanfu-derived clothing. Hanfu-derived fashion is not restricted by the definitions of its form, hence are not considered as hanfu. The reason why we included them in the “functionality” chart is to assist defining and understanding the breadth of the hanfu definition, but is not part of the system.

6. The system does not demand modern hanfu to be completely synonymous with traditional hanfu. The restoration movement is not an antiquarian one, hence we do not demand our modern hanfu to be exactly the same as historic ones. Modern hanfu can exist and innovate under abidance to basic form in parameters of shape, pattern, and colour. Due to changes in social practices and economic factors, the context of wear does not have to abide by past standards.

The Modern Hanfu, by design. (by Yizhanfeng, translated by Satsuki Shizuka) Articles with an asterisk (*) indicate its classification is under debate.


Classification of Hanfu

This system is organized by individual design and functionality.

1. Hanfu by individual design
A classification by individual garment, in order to organize the relationship between individual articles, and to standardize its nomenclature.
Its taxonomical principle is:

  • One article of clothing can only be given one subcategory.
  • Different categories are clearly distinguishable from each other.
  • A standardized name for any single article of clothing.

2. Hanfu by functionality
A division of modern hanfu by its purpose of use. The purpose is to encourage the organization and discovery of functionality for the clothing, as well regulate the use of hanfu in various situations etc..

Classification of Hanfu by functionality, by Yizhanfeng (translated by Satsuki Shizuka). Articles with asterisk (*) are articles under debate.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Qin Jiangtu
    Nov 28, 2012 @ 15:32:27

    I actually have to agree with this.
    When using hanfu, or choosing a type of clothing we should be aware of two things:
    Connotation and formality. For example, back in the day using a xiao guan wouldn’t be much formal in a official meeting or ritual sacrifice.
    Neither using a ”regular” hanfu at a ceremony, meeting or events concerning the Emperor/local authority.

    Back on the ”connotation”, unfortunately specially in modern china we should be VERY aware of the connotation of our clothing.
    For example, using a headgear with ancient connotation [such as the shushi guan or gaoshan guan] or a clothing extremely related to the good days, such as
    the Pien fu [formal hanfu,worn by noblility/emperor].
    So best NOT to go there, unless the meeting/event truly demands it. such as the usage of some jin/guan at a Confucian ceremony, or a religion [Taoism,ancestor worship,etc] or even
    scholarship-related event.

    Avoiding additional trouble with the government in China is of utmost importance of the movement, to not give a much ”politics” profile to it and help the idea to spread right??
    Besides, they often go paranoid for nearly nothing so… [such as the dumb— protestors that ripped the clothing out of a lady back on Chengdu] or some other wrongdoings happening.


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