Hanfu movement

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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, historical 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 around 2003, when a man named 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

The exact definition of "Hanfu"[edit]

"Hanfu" is a non-academic, non-official noun to define the historical dress of the Han Chinese people.[2][3] 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. [4]

During the Qing dynasty, Manchu clothing was only required for Eight Banners members and Han men serving as government officials. Ordinary Han civilians were allowed to wear Han clothing but most Han civilian men voluntarily adopted Manchu clothing[5] like Changshan on their own free will. Throughout the Qing dynasty Han women continued to wear Han clothing and did not wear Manchu women's clothing.


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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] After considering the proposal and debating on what should be the official clothing, the Chinese Olympic Committee rejected the proposal in April.[10]