Fluttering Hems: The Issue of Taxonomy of Several Robe Types

Various styles of male Hanfu. This article focuses on the long robe variants and their names.

Although Hanfu becomes more readily available in a maturing market, a newcomer may still be driven to a daze by the flood of new terms and jargons used to describe and explicate the types and elements of this diverse sartorial culture.  

It does not help to the situation when there is an ever-changing understanding of the archaeology and taxonomy of the clothing within the civilian and institutional academic Hanfu researchers, as well the liberties taken by some Hanfu makers in its design and market labelling. Just what is the difference between a Zhishen and a Zhiduo? Why is a Shenyi of a totally different price and prescribed occasion for wearing compared to a round-collared robe or a simple long straight robe? Why is the Xuanduan so exclusive, if it even refers to the same thing to different people?  

Let us take a brief look at some of the finer details these clothes’ definitions:  

  • The Xuanduan (Black-hem) 玄端 Outfit,
  • the Zhiju Shenyi (Straight-hem deep-robe) 直裾深衣,
  • the Zhiduo (straight robe) 直裰,
  • the Zhishen (straight-body robe) 直身,
  • and the Daopao (Daoist robe) 道袍.


The Shenyi for Dummies: A design with no absolute measurements!

The completed clothes should look like this!

EDIT: Here is the completed thing!

Revised diagram.

Revised diagram.

For someone with next to zero tailoring skills (such as myself), here is the simplest explanation as to how a proper Shenyi, the “white-tie” for the civilian adult male, is made.

The Ruqun, which is the standard dress for women that can be formal or casual (depending on sleeve size), is more or less the same, with exception to detaching the top from the bottom, and adding a separate skirt head. The Ruqun’s technicalities is beyond the scope of this post, for now.

With this diagram, one can fabricate a Shenyi by acquiring some black and white fabric. At 120cm broadcloth, one would require about 5m of material (on the safe side). Dark blue or green can replace the black, but black is still recommended.

NOTE: Sashes for tying up the clothes itself for wearing is not included in these diagrams. These are assumed knowledge for the Hanfu tailor, and sashes should be sewn on all Hanfu in four places:

  1. The inside of the left armpit, and is tied with 3 when worn.
  2. The upper edge of the end of the left collar, which is tied with 4 when worn.
  3. The upper edge of the end of the right collar, which is tied with 1 when worn.
  4. The outside of the right armpit, and is tied with 2 when worn.

In the details of this post, I will summarize the recent discussions and findings of the Hanfu Movement in regards to necessity of cutting seams, fabric widths, and the shape of the skirt. Please read on.



June 2023