Youth in Ancient Style

October 16, 2019
Editor: Sun Muyao
Youth in Ancient Style

hanfu show is held at the first Chinese Ritual Music Conference in Hengdian, Zhejiang Province, in 2013.[China Daily]

 

Traditional hanfu clothing is gaining popularity among people seeking to access the virtues of their ancestors' aesthetics and philosophies, Jiang Yijing reports.

Beijing University of Chinese Medicine sophomore Wang Zixu recalls the first time he tried on hanfu, or clothing worn by the Han ethnic group before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The 20-year-old was reciting an ancient poem in a talent show seven years ago, when he was in middle school.

"It was cyan cotton hanfu with big, long sleeves. Unlike modern clothes, there were no zippers or buttons, but instead belts were used to secure the garments," the traditional Chinese medicine major recollects.

"I felt like I could better relate to our ancestors' aesthetics," Wang says. "It enabled me to carry myself in a refined manner. I even recited the poem with greater presence.

"I fell in love with hanfu there and then."

He joined the school's hanfu club, which hosts activities related to ancient clothing, poetry and calligraphy.

Such clubs have become popular among students.

They allow people who share an interest in hanfu to carry on the essence of Han culture from past millennia through to the modern day.

The rising popularity of Han-style clothing inspired Yang Na to write the book, The Return of Hanfu, in 2016.

The 33-year-old human resources worker at a national TV media group in Beijing was interested in hanfu as a teenager and began wearing the clothes over a decade ago.

She became passionate about it after reading an article online in 2006, prompting her to research her book.

The Return of Hanfu introduces ancient rites and chronicles the development of Han-style clothing in recent years. It has sold over 10,000 copies.

The book is a good reference that documents the reemergence of hanfu and may accelerate it in the future, says Renmin University of China's School of Public Administration and Policy professor Kang Xiaoguang.

Youth in Ancient Style

hanfu show is held at the first Chinese Ritual Music Conference in Hengdian, Zhejiang Province, in 2013.[China Daily]

 

Costume revival

About 91 percent of China's population, or 1.2 billion people, are ethnic Han.

A report by the WeChat public account, Hanfu Information, says there were over 2 million active hanfu enthusiasts in 2018, a 73 percent increase over the previous year.

Their average age was 21, and over 88 percent were women.

Hanfu Information's report also found 129 brick-and-mortar stores selling hanfu in 25 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, and over 810 specialty shops on the e-commerce platform Taobao, a 24 percent increase compared with 2017.

Data from online retailer Tmall shows a 92 percent increase in the number of hanfu consumers in 2018 compared with the previous year. Women accounted for 87 percent of the purchases.

Many credit the rejuvenation to an electrician named Wang Letian, who wore hanfu on the street in Henan's provincial capital, Zhengzhou, one day in November 2003. His image went viral online.

"Since then, it has no longer been just a costume for dramas or portrait photography," Yang says.

Zhuang Shaoqing, Deputy Manager of the Beijing Hanfu Association, recalls the trend taking off.

"Ten years ago, if I saw someone in Beijing wearing hanfu, I probably knew their name because there were fewer than 100 people who wore it," says Zhuang. "But now, I wouldn't know 99 percent of them."

The nonprofit the 32-year-old exhibition curator co-founded in 2009 claims to be the capital's largest and oldest Han-clothing cultural association with over 600 registered members.

"About 30 or 40 people would attend our activities a decade ago," Zhuang recalls. "We worried too few people would show up.

"Now, we have to cap the numbers. Otherwise, there may be too many."

The Beijing Hanfu Association hosts such activities as public performances, lectures on etiquette and training in such traditional arts as calligraphy, needlework and handicrafts.

"We don't want hanfu to be just a piece of clothing … but also an expression of our national spirit and cultural heritage," Zhuang says.

Association member and activity organizer Xu Gangyu began to learn about hanfu when she was in high school.

"I'd blush six years ago when people on the street would stare at me when I wore hanfu, but now hanfu is commonplace," says the 24-year-old female computer engineer, who adds that she wears contact lenses, rather than glasses, with the traditional clothing to make her look more authentic.

Working with the association also helped her learn about traditional festivals, she says. For example, singles would court each other during Lantern Festival. And during Qixi, or "Chinese Valentine's Day", girls would show off their sewing and embroidery skills.

Youth in Ancient Style

A hanfu enthusiast displays a decorative clay ornament.[China Daily]

 

Tailored interest

The Communist Youth League's Central Committee organized the first China Huafu Day (traditional Chinese costume day) in Shaanxi's provincial capital, Xi'an, on April 18 last year.

The event was co-organized by the video-sharing platform, Bilibili.

About 30 hanfu producers and over 200 models and enthusiasts attended the second event in Xi'an this year.

One of the event's co-organizers is Chonghui Hantang (Back to the Han and Tang Dynasties), a leading fashion company that designs and sells Han-style garments in China.

Its online store on Tmall has over 2 million followers, and it recently opened its 27th physical shop in Jiangsu Province's Suzhou.

The enterprise's founder, Lyu Xiaowei, says business was difficult when she started in Sichuan Province's capital, Chengdu, in 2006.

Lyu wore hanfu on the street and at the city's tourism sites.

Strangers asked to take photos with her and inquired where she'd bought the clothes.

"People's curiosity and passion inspired me to sell hanfu," recalls the 39-year-old.

"Yet, initially few customers wanted to buy it at first. So, I rented outfits to people to take photos."

But her annual sales began to double in 2012.

Lyu believes the best way to pass down traditional culture is to apply it to real life.

Many people consider Han-style clothes impractical, but there are many styles and designs, according to Lyu.

"In addition to inconvenient ones with long, wide sleeves, others have narrow, neat sleeves that don't interfere with your daily routine," she says.

Tongji University humanities professor Zhu Dake views the revival as nostalgia for ancient times amid rapid modernization.

"People wear traditional garments to better understand their ancestors," he says.

"Hanfu has its beauty, and people who wear it attract attention on the street.

"Young adults' enthusiasm for Han clothes has brought new vitality to the traditional costume.

"We should realize Han-style clothes are only an outer layer of Chinese culture. People need to dig deeper to reach the essence of our civilization."

 

(Source: China Daily)

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