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The hanfu movement (simplified Chinese: 汉服运动; traditional Chinese: 漢服運動) is a social movement seeking to revitalize traditional Chinese fashion that developed in China at the beginning of the 21st century.
When the Manchus established the Qing dynasty, the authorities issued decrees having Han Chinese men to wear Manchurian attire and shave their hair into pigtails. The resistance against the hair shaving policy were suppressed. Some Han civilian men also voluntarily adopted Manchu clothing like changshan on their own free will. By the late Qing, not only officials and scholars, but a great many commoners as well, started to wear Manchu attire.
Proponents of the movement claim that hanfu's chief characteristics were symbolic of cultural moral and ethical values: "the left collar covering the right represents the perfection of human culture on human nature and the overcoming of bodily forces by the spiritual power of ethical ritual teaching; the expansive cutting and board sleeve represents a moral, concordant relation between nature and human creative power; the use of the girdle to fasten the garment over the body represents the constraints of Han culture to limit human's desire that would incur amoral deed. In the Qing Dynasty, officials replaced the hanfu with the attire of Manchu. Though many people believe that the qipao is China's national costume, it is fairly modern.
According to Asia Times Online, the hanfu movement may have begun around 2003. Wang Letian from Zhengzhou, China, publicly wore hanfu. He and his followers inspired others to reflect on the cultural identity of Han Chinese. They organized the hanfu movement as an initiative in a broader effort to stimulate a Han Chinese cultural renaissance. In the same year of 2003, supporters of Han revivalism launched the website Hanwang (Chinese: 漢網, "Han Network") to promote traditional Han clothing, however some sources claim this to be alongside a Han supremacist agenda.
In February 2007, advocates of hanfu submitted a proposal to the Chinese Olympic Committee to have it be the official clothing of the Chinese team in the 2008 Summer Olympics. The Chinese Olympic Committee rejected the proposal in April 2007.
Definition of hanfu
According to Dictionary of Old Chinese Clothing (Chinese: 中國衣冠服飾大辭典), the term hanfu means "dress of the Han people." This term, which is not commonly used in ancient times, can be found in some historical records from Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties and the Republican era in China.
Critics have contended that the term hanfu is a modern development. An article published by Chinese Newsweek in September 2005 reported that it is not included in the authoritative dictionary of Standard Mandarin Chinese "Contemporary Chinese Dictionary" (Chinese: 現代漢語詞典) and that it was coined by Internet users around the year 2003.
Professor of China Youth University of Political Studies Zhang Xian (Chinese: 張跣) asserts that hanfu is a modern concept publicized by student advocates of the hanfu movement who created a standard of pre-Qing Han Chinese fashion without accurate academic research and propagated it on collaborative, web-based encyclopedias such as Baidu Baike and Hanwang. In the same vein, the American scholar of contemporary Chinese society, professor of Macquarie University Kevin Carrico criticized the hanfu for being an "invented style of dress" which "made the transition from a fantastic invented tradition to a distant image on a screen to a physical reality in the streets of China, in which one could wrap and recognise oneself". He maintains that there is no clear history indicating that there was any specific apparel in existence under the name hanfu.
Chinese researcher Hua Mei (Chinese: 華梅), interviewed by student advocates of the hanfu movement in 2007, recognizes that defining hanfu is no simple matter, as there was no uniform style of Chinese fashion throughout the millennia of its history. Because of its constant evolution, she questions which period's style can rightly be regarded as traditional. Nonetheless, she explains that hanfu has historically been used to broadly refer to indigenous Chinese clothing in general. Observing that the apparel most often promoted by the movement are based on the Han-era quju and zhiju, she suggests that other styles, especially that of the Tang era, would also be candidates for revival in light of this umbrella definition.
Professor of Aichi University, cultural anthropologist Zhou Xing (Chinese: 周星) maintains that the term hanfu was not commonly used in ancient times and refers to the traditional costume as imagined by participants of the hanfu movement. Like Hua, he notes that the term hanfu classically referred to clothing that Han people wore in general, but in contrast, he argues that, on this basis, it is not the same as the hanfu as defined by participants of the movement.
Among the opposition to the hanfu movement, a common concern is its implication for ethnic minorities. Skeptics fear that there is an element of exclusivity which could brew ethnic tensions, especially if it were to be nationalized. For this reason, supporters of the movement are sometimes labeled as "Han chauvinists".
Nevertheless, it has been insisted by some hanfu advocates that none of them have ever suggested that minorities must abandon their own indigenous styles of dress and that personal preference for a style of fashion can be independent of political or nationalistic motives. Students consulted by Hua Mei cited the persistence of indigenous clothing among Chinese minorities, and the usage of kimono in Japan, hanbok in North Korea and South Korea, and traditional clothing used in India as an inspiration for the hanfu movement. Even some ardent enthusiasts interviewed by the South China Morning Post in 2017, among them the Hanfu Society at Guangzhou University have cautioned against extending the dress beyond social normalization among Han Chinese people, acknowledging the negative repercussions politicization of the movement may have on society.
Carrico, believing that the movement is inherently racial at its core, insists in that it is built on the narrative that the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty were single-mindedly dedicated to the destruction of the Han people and thus of China itself, fundamentally transforming Chinese society and shifting its essence "from civilisation to barbarism". He argues that real atrocities such as the Yangzhou massacre, during which Manchu soldiers devastated the city of Yangzhou, and the forceful imposition of the queue decree, are fused with the imaginary injustice of the forcible erasure of Han clothing. According to his research, underpinning the movement are conspiracy theories made by some hanfu advocates which claim that a secret Manchu plot for restoration has been underway since the start of the post-1978 reform era, such that the Manchus secretly control every important party-state institution, including the People’s Liberation Army, the Party Propaganda Department, the Ministry of Culture and especially the National Population and Family Planning Commission.
According to James Leibold, an associate professor in Chinese politics and Asian studies at La Trobe University, pioneers of the hanfu movement have confessed to believing that the issue of Han clothing cannot be separated from the larger issue of racial identity and political power in China. He cites the website Hanwang (Chinese: 漢網, 'Han Network') as an example of their Han supremacist agenda. Launched in 2003, Hanwang's constitution asserted that "Han culture is the world's most advanced and its race is one of the strongest and most prosperous" and endorsed the reintroduction of traditional Han clothing. Nonetheless, Leibold has mentioned that "one would be mistaken in believing that all Hanfu supporters share the political agenda embedded in the Hanwang constitution. Rather, the movement encompasses a very diverse group of individuals who find different sorts of meaning and enjoyment in the category of Han."
Eric Fish, a freelance writer who lived in China from 2007 to 2014 as a teacher, student, and journalist, believed that the hanfu movement does have "patriotic undertones" but "most Hanfu enthusiasts are in it for the fashion and community more than a racial or xenophobic motivation". He also mentioned that contrary to popular belief, China's "young people overall are progressively getting less nationalistic".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hanfu movement.|
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