Chinese Fashion Designs Part IV

June 10, 2010

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Through different movies I could figure, or have at least an idea of how fantastic and how rich the legacy left to the world's culture by the Chinese ancient traditions was.

Only as an example, in the Bertolucci's film "The Last Emperor" I felt deeply impressed by the views of the Imperial Palace (also known as "The Forbidden City"). Reading about it I knew that it is more than five centuries old, it was maintained surprisingly identical to its origins, keeping all the luxuries with which it was created. Among other events, Dynasties Ming and Quing have passed along its fascinating corridors.

In China, by Ming and Qing times, clothing fashion designs#& indicated not only differences in class and gender, but also ethnicity, as the two major ethnic groups, Han Chinese and Manchu, wore distinct clothes.

Han Chinese clothing or Hanfu means "ancient clothing", it refers to the clothing fashion designs worn by the Han ethnic people from the ruling periods of the Three Emperors and Five Sovereigns to the Ming Dynasty . The term Hanfu derives from the Book of Han, which says, "then many came to the Court to pay homage and were delighted at the clothing style of the Han [Chinese]." Sometimes it is referred in English sources simply as Silk Robe (especially those worn by the gentry). From the beginning of its history, Hanfu fashion designs (especially in elite circles) was inseparable from silk. The first solidly historical dynasty known of in China, the Shang Dynasty (c.1600 BC-1000 BC), developed the rudiments of Hanfu.

Hanfu has a history of more than three millennia, and the dynasty to follow the Shang, the Western Zhou Dynasty, established a strict hierarchical society that used clothing fashion& designs#& as a status meridian, and inevitably, the height of one's rank influenced the ornateness of a costume.

In the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the "deep robe" (shenyi) appeared a combination of tunic and skirt. Perhaps because of Confucian influence, disapproving of a hierarchical society in favour of social mobility based on personal merit, the shenyi was swiftly adopted.

Since its commonly assumed beginnings in the Shang dynasty Han-Chinese clothing fashion designs had changed and evolved with the fashion of the days. Each dynasty has their own styles of Hanfu fashion designs as they evolved and only few styles are 'fossilized'. This Han style may be different from the traditional garment of other ethnic groups in China, most notably the Manchurian-influenced Chinese clothes, the qipao, which is popularly assumed to be the solely recognizable style of "traditional" Chi fashion design.

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