Hanfu movement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hanfu being worn during a festival in London

Hanfu movement (simplified Chinese: 汉服运动; traditional Chinese: 漢服運動), or the Hanfu subculture, is a movement created in China to reintroduce into modern life hanfu, traditional clothing styles of the Han Chinese before the Qing dynasty (1644–1912).


Wang Letian wearing Hanfu

According to Asia Times Online, the Hanfu movement may have begun since around 2003, when a man called Wang Letian from Zhengzhou, China publicly wore Hanfu.[1] Wang and his followers inspired others to reflect on the cultural identity of Han Chinese, and the Hanfu movement was born as an initiative to revive and preserve the Han Chinese identity. The Hanfu movement has been controversial since its initiation. While supporters often applaud its reviving of Han culture, some others criticize its cultural exclusiveness. The Han Chinese society as a whole has not accepted Hanfu as a type of traditional clothing. People who wear Hanfu in public are often considered eccentric.

Hanfu enthusiasts often hold events that encourage the public to wear Hanfu. Major events in recently years include Guan Li's and Ji Li's (Chinese coming of age ceremonies). Hanfu can also been seen every year in numerous public and private ceremonies.


Hanfu movement supporters wearing Hanfu
Two Hanfu promoters at the Chinese Cultural Festival in Guangzhou

Debates surrounding Hanfu mainly concern about the legitimacy and the cultural implications of Hanfu.

The exact definition of "Hanfu"[edit]

Throughout China's long history, the clothing of the Han people has undergone many changes. The costumes of each dynasty is different, reflecting the varying interests of each period. However, its close relation to the traditional ritual teaching, and its main characteristics that are related to the fundamental moral and ethical values are nevertheless preserved: the left collar covering the right represents the perfection of human culture on human nature and the overcoming of the wild bodily force by spiritual power that is carried in ethical ritual teaching; the expansive cutting and board sleeve represents a moral, concordant relation between nature and human creative power; the using of the girdle to fasten the garment over the body represents the active restriction of Han's traditional culture over human's desire that would incur amoral deed, were not restricted. It was not until the Qing Dynasty that the Hanfu became forcibly replaced by the costume of Manchu. Though many believe the Qipao or Cheongsam is China's national costume, this is relatively inaccurate as, considering China's thousands of years of history, the qipao is fairly modern. [2]

To revive or not to revive[edit]

Some people believe that the disappearance of the Hanfu is not abnormal. Nowadays, many feel that the Hanfu is no longer relevant or convenient, and has been consigned to China's historical culture.[original research?]

There are those who believe that every ethnic group's costume is important and a valuable development and piece of the past, embodying the culture and traditions of that group. Hanfu is the traditional costume of the Han Chinese, so it is representative of the nation's traditional culture. The Chinese people are becoming more aware of this connection between themselves and their ancient culture. The practice of wearing Hanfu has also had the benefit of development and propagation of the traditional culture of China.[original research?]

Complete restoration?[edit]

Hanfu revivalists wearing Hanfu in everyday life
Hanfu enthusiasts at an event

Some[who?] think it is important for certain occasions. One can wear Hanfu for holidays, festivals, weddings, birth parties, funerals or even as regular clothing. Those who believe that wearing Hanfu is inconvenient can continue wearing modern clothing. There are also those who believe that national costumes can become the standard ideal of clothing for special occasions and holidays. Example of this include Japan (kimono) and Korea (Hanbok or Chosŏn-ot) where their national costumes do not completely dominate everyday clothing, yet make appearances during national festivals. Some even suggest modifying Hanfu to make it more appropriate for everyday clothing. As the predecessor of the kimono, the Hanfu is surprisingly unknown to the rest of the world.[original research?]

But like many other national costumes, Hanfu has a formal, more heavy and elaborate form for certain occasions (like the Western white tie or tuxedo), and an informal, light and easy to wear form which is more convenient to wear every day. So completely reviving Hanfu is not as inconvenient as any other national costume.[original research?]

However, there may be practical concern for complete Hanfu restoration. In parts of Han dynasty, the pants people wear (if any) did not cover the crotch, so sitting with splitting legs would be regarded as extremely rude.[3]

Whether the Tangzhuang can fully represent the Han nationality[edit]

Some believe that the Tangzhuang (i.e. Qipao and Cheongsam) has had a tremendous influence overseas and that many foreigners recognise them as the de facto Chinese costume and that Hanfu does not share the same influence or recognition in today's environment.[original research?]


Many Hanfu advocates argue that making Hanfu a national dress could unite the country, creating a cultural symbol for the country and creating a tradition for future generations.[4] However, critics of the movement fear that the revival leans too far in the direction of a narrow nationalism, focused on looks rather than content.[5] They fear that a blanket dismissal of non-Hanfu dress could lead a step further, towards a rejection of the West that goes beyond clothing matters.

While many Hanfu enthusiasts advocate Hanfu as a national dress, critics see this as an internal problem, as Hanfu is the traditional dress of the Han people. Hanfu as a national dress would fail to represent the other 55 ethnicities of China.[6]

Historical relevance[edit]

Where some feel that Hanfu is out-dated and unsuitable for wear in a modern progressive society, much as people in the West do not wear period costume (British people do not wear costumes of Elizabethan times in everyday life), others believe that since it has been worn for the majority of Chinese history, it is less of a "period" costume than the qipao.[original research?]

The sudden change in Chinese clothing from traditional Han-style to strong Manchurian and Western influences has caused confusion as to the idea of what China's national costume is. Hanfu's development halted in the 17th century due to government sanctions by the Manchurian Qing government, so the Hanfu has been placed in a situation that other national costumes have had the fortune not to experience. Technically, Hanfu is a costume lost not through natural development, but through forced change.[original research?]

There is also debate as to whether Hanfu is just a fashion-fad or a form of Romantic nostalgia for the past, rather than anything of modern relevance.

Recent developments[edit]

In February 2007, a proposal to use Hanfu for the official clothing of for the Chinese 2008 Summer Olympics was submitted to the Chinese Olympic Committee.[7] After considering the proposal and debating on what should be the official clothing, the Chinese Olympic Committee rejected the proposal in April.[8]

In 2008, the Chinese Central Government's official Web portal used a portrait of a woman in Hanfu to represent the Han ethnicity on the introductory page of the fifty-six ethnic groups.[9]


External links[edit]