China has many ethnic groups with a long history while Han people dominate most periods in history. For thousands of years, generations of clothing designers have devoted themselves to building the Kingdom of Clothes, making the garments that cover the human body into an important component of Chinese culture. The progress of nation can be seen through its changes in clothing styles.(A traditional Chinese clothing tour to China.)
There is no uniformity of information as far as the main dress of china is concerned, different dynasties brought in new forms and reforms. Different experts claim different dresses as the main dress of china. However the three main types of Chinese clothing include Pienfu, the Chang-pao and the Shen-i. The peinfu is a two piece traditional ceremonial costume similar to a tunic top extending to the knees along with a skirt or trousers extending to the ankles. The Chang-pao is a one-piece garment extending from the shoulders all the way to the heels, whereas a cross between the two is the shen-i type. Shen-I consists of a tunic and a skirt or trousers like the pien-fu, but the tunic and the skirt are sewed together and essentially one piece like the ch'ang-p'ao. Out of all the three types Shen- I was the most widely used type.
Some Well-known Chinese Clothing
Costume in the Han Dynasty
The costume of the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD) followed the one established in the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). In the Eastern Han Dynasty, people in black had to wear purple silk adornments to match their clothes. Ordinary people usually wore costume with a long hat at grand ceremonies offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors. The dress of the queen in these ceremonies consisted of dark-purple frock and black trousers.
Female laborers of the Han Dynasty always wore short jackets and long skirts, and their knees were always decorated with long hanging waistbands. Male laborers often wore jackets and calf-nose trousers with aprons around the garments. Farmers, workers, businessmen and scholars were all in the same dressing style at that time.
Costume in the Tang Dynasty
The dresses of the Tang Dynasty were mainly made of silk, so they were famous for softness and lightness. The dresses of the Tang Dynasty boldly adopted the features of foreign garments in terms of forms and adornments. The clothing materials were exquisite, the structure was natural, graceful and elegant, and adornments were splendid. In this way, a special open and romantic style of dress and personal adornments for women was formed.
The cheongsam, or Qipao in Chinese, is evolved from a sort of ancient clothing of Manchu ethnic minority. In ancient times, it generally referred to long gowns worn by the people of Manchuria, Mongolia(Mongolia tours) and the Eight-Banner.
In the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), long gowns featured collarless, narrow cuff in the shape of a horse's hoof, buttons down the left front, four slits and a fitting waist. Wearers usually coiled up their cuff, and put it down when hunting or battling to cover the back of hand. Another feature of Manchu cheongsam was that people generally wore it plus a waistcoat that was either with buttons down the front, a twisted front, or a front in the shape of lute, etc.
When the early Manchu rulers came to mainland China, they moved their capital to Beijing(Beijing tours). The Qing Dynasty unified China, and unified the nationwide costume so that cheongsam began to spread in the Central Plains as well. At that time, men wore a long gown and a mandarin jacket over the gown, while women wore cheongsam.
From the 1930s, cheongsam almost became the uniform for women. Folk women, students, workers and highest-tone women all dressed themselves in cheongsam, which even became a formal suit for occasions of social intercourses or diplomatic activities. Later, cheongsam even spread to foreign countries and became the favorite of foreign females.
Why do Han people like to wear the cheongsam? The main reason is that it fits well Chinese female figure, has simple lines and looks elegant. What's more, it is suitable for wearing in all seasons by old and young. The cheongsam can either be long or short, unlined or interlined, woolen or made of silk floss. Besides, with different materials, the cheongsam presents different styles. Cheongsams made of silk with patterns of flowerlet, plain lattices or thin lines demonstrate charm of femininity and staidness; those made of brocade are eye-catching and magnificent and suitable for occasions of greeting guests and attending banquets.
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