The Return of the Hanfu

by Jonquil Dun

Girl in Hanfu and weimao (Photo from Pinterest/Ziseviolet)

In China, the traditional clothing of the Han people called the Hanfu is becoming popular. Thanks to the internet and the revolutionaries who are bringing this ancient tradition back to life.

Year 2003, when a man from Zhengzhou, Wang Letian woke the renaissance of the Hanfu when his photo streamed across the internet and attracted a Singaporean journalist who later published an article about it, which later encouraged the movement of the Hanfu Revival calling themselves  “tongpao”. To make Hanfu more accessible to the public, a few individuals from the movement opened shops specifically selling Hanfu clothing.

Attendees at Hanfu Festival (Photo from CGTN)

Hanfu is the traditional clothes worn by the Han ethnic group in China during the Han Dynasty. With the fall of its rule and ethnic suppression during the Qing Dynasty, the traditional wearing of hanfu was forgotten. After its re-introduction by a man who wore it publicly, a couple of designers gathered together to create a collection of Hanfu clothing that ranges from the ancient and traditional, to Western- infused everyday wear, athletics, and even to special occasions such as weddings. An example of this is seen in the Taobao Festival which happened last year (2020) where a couple of designers showcased their versions of Hanfu. Brands like Qiaozhi, Xiaoyaozhai, Lanrouting, DeepLunar and Shanjian are among those who debuted their creations last year. There are also other Hanfu festivals that are held across China.

According to Chinese historian Hua Mei,  “defining hanfu is no simple matter, as there was no uniform style of Chinese fashion throughout the millennia of its history”

Hanfu has historically been used to broadly refer to indigenous Chinese clothing in general. There are many styles and many ways for a clothing to be categorized as Hanfu. There are some who wears Hanfu with a weimao or mili, in the past. But nowadays the weimao and mili can only be seen as a new style for photoshoots, or a costume in the movies. Hanfu inspired the Korean national clothing called Hanbok and the Japanese kimono.

Photo from Pinterest/Ziseviolet

Will this attempt to revive the Hanfu persist?

There is a good chance. People’s purchasing habits nowadays shifts towards value evaluation. They are more interested in the history or story and significance of a product more than ever. Hanfu shares the world’s fashion stage along with modest fashion when it matured into an industry in the recent years among its followers in China and other Chinese communities from other parts of the world who are becoming aware of the revival.

One good reason that Hanfu is becoming a significant fashion is that it gives people a strong sense of belonging, it reminds them of their cultural heritage, and exudes authenticity.

Modern Hanfu (Photo from New Hanfu )

Why we are excited about Hanfu?

Because it is modest. The bellowy sleeves, the length, the aesthetics, it is loose like the abaya and sometimes worn like a Kaftan. And the weimao and mili just reminds us of the burqa and niqab, in the same essence that it is worn to protect women when they are in public spaces.

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