Originally submitted as sample paper to the Social Studies and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), University of Toronto, University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong during the period of November 2011 to April 2012.
The Hanfu Revival Movement in Toronto
by: Juni L. Yeung
In April 2011, a fiasco arose with Conservative Party of Canada as Immigration Officer Jason Kenney was accused of ‘harbouring hateful sentiments’ towards ethnic minorities as the Party was organizing a photo op with Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the upcoming election. The arrangement was to organize twenty people wearing ethnic garb of their various origins, in order to show the Conservative Party’s support of diversity in the Canadian populace, but the plan was jeered by ethnic associations and other parties alike as ‘a kind of amateurish naivety’ and ‘the height of patronizing, pandering, and belittling the contributions of new Canadians’.
While this kind of political stunt is increasingly perceived as a superficial or patronizing action in the West, to the minds of the mainland Chinese, this is all normal and commonplace, as the People’s Republic often sported images and various media of its 56 officially recognized ethnicities, distinguished first and foremost by dress in its own propaganda. A pictorial guide to the recognized Chinese ethnicities, distinguished by dress is posted on the Chinese government portal website. All of these recognized ethnicities are considered to be members of the greater “Chinese ethnicity”, or Zhonghua Minzu as promulgated by the government and taught in school curricula, its imagery are often put on public display, the most recently recognizable one being an event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Despite international and academic skepticism about the international recognition of the success or legitimacy of such an ethnic policy, it is ingrained into the common psyche of the mainland Chinese person, and following the process of emigration, such values are spread to Chinese diaspora communities.
However, as Canadian Chinese society is comprised of subgroups with distinctly different values and cultural contexts, their relation to this ‘mainlander’s issue’ takes on a kaleidoscope of variant interpretations to the necessity of recognizing, having, and wearing Hanfu, a dress otherwise extinct for over three centuries, as the representative ethnic dress of the Chinese people. More