Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

Tang suit (唐装, Tang Zhuang), also known as Chinese jacket. A newer form of Qing Dynasty Magua (马褂), is a modern costume with traditional elements, based on the prototype of a Chinese traditional lapel jacket, with the addition of stand collar and western-style three-dimensional cutting.



Origin of the name of Tang suit

Perhaps you may be puzzled, since Tang suit is a new form of Magua in the Qing Dynasty, why is there Tang in the name? Is it directly related to the Tang Dynasty costume?

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

The reason is that the Tang Dynasty was a powerful dynasty in Chinese history and had a great influence on overseas countries, and in the Song Dynasty, "Tang" had become the pronoun of the overseas countries in the southeast for China. Throughout the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, things related to China were called "Tang", and not only "Tang" was used as a proxy for the land of "China", but also the Chinese were called "Tang", overseas Chinese often call themselves "Tang people", they live in places called "Tangren Jie (唐人街, Chinatown)", so this Qing-style costume is also called "Tang suit".

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

In modern times, the Tang suit has more diverse names, such as Kung Fu Jacket, perhaps because Bruce Lee and the kung fu craze he led were so popular in Western society, the Tang suits and Magua he wore were given this impressionable title. And in the fashion world, it is also known as the Mandarin Jacket or China Shirt.



The historical origin of the Tang suit

Xingfu Gua → Magua → Tang suit

Manchu costumes in the Qing Dynasty, according to the different occasions, can be divided into Lifu (ceremonial dress, Xingfu (行服) and Changfu (常服, daily wear clothing) and other categories. Among them, Xingfu is the most riding element of clothing, it comes directly from the Manchu hunting life.

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

A complete set of Xingfu, including Guan (crown), Pao (robe), Gua (褂, jacket) and Shang (lower garment), etc., is mainly for the convenience of riding and shooting. The specific way of dressing was as follows: wearing the robe inside, wearing the belt around the waist, covering the Xingfu Gua outside, and tying the garment underneath.

And Xingfu can be interpreted as the daily "uniform" in the military, and civilian officials can also wear the Xingfu with official hats as official clothes when they go out with the driver or on business trips to other places.

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

Emperor Qianlong

The so-called Xingfu Gua is the prototype of the Tang suit - Magua. At the beginning of the Qing dynasty, the Magua was used as a military uniform, with a basic style of round collar, lapels, flat sleeves, elbow-length sleeves, and navel-length garment, five-button loops on the lapels, and single-layer, multi-layer, leather, and cotton materials.

Later, the popularity of the Magua among the people led to the gradual evolution of new styles and changes in the length of the sleeves and the body of the jacket. The cuffs of the jacket were narrowed and the length of the garment was extended to the waist. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, wearing a Changpao (长袍, long robe) or Changshan (长衫, long shirt) with a black dark patterned lapel Magua was already the mainstream "formal" attire in society.

Tang suit is not exactly the same as Magua

Although the Tang suit is a modified version of the Magua, but there is another common feature on the Magua - the left, right and back slit (that is, there is a slit on both sides and the back of the garment), which is not available on the Tang suit. Moreover, the Magua is cut in Chinese style, with the sleeve tube and the body of the garment in one piece, while the Tang suit is cut in Western-style, with the sleeve tube and the body of the garment cut separately.

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)



Features & Fabrics of Tang suit

There are four main features of the traditional Tangzhuang:

  • One is the stand collar, the front center opening of the upper garment, originated in the Ming Dynasty vertical collar, at first for women's clothing, after men's clothing also use stand collar.
  • The second is the Duijin (对襟, symmetrical lapels), which can also be Xiejin (斜襟, slanted lapels).
  • The third is the button, that is, Pan buttons (盘扣), with decoratively woven and used for fixing, originated in the Song Dynasty, and the Song Hanfu has been used, initially only for women's daily clothes.
  • Fourth: the main decoration is the Tuanhua (团花) pattern.

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

In terms of fabric, the traditional Tang suit mainly uses silk, brocade satin fabric.



Modern Tang suit

Many people were first known to Tang suit at the APEC meeting in Shanghai in 2001. Traditional Tang suit jacket, with its style leaning toward simplicity and elegance, was often seen in the public eye as official clothing. So now, what changes have occurred in the Tang suit?

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

2001 APEC summit in China

Like Hanfu, the Tang suit is also becoming more fashionable. The dull and oppressive feeling brought by traditional elements is given a new expression, and with the attention of young people for traditional elements of clothing, the Tang suit is constantly being injected with new design elements.

  • The Pan buttons was retained and became an emphasis, maintaining the main features of the garment.
  • The originally more flattering and upright stand collar was also made loose or suitable for unbuttoned wear.
  • Details: traditional Chinese patterns to trendy graffiti letters and color schemes were applied to the modern Tang suit.
  • The limitations of fabrics were also broken, with denim, corduroy, khaki, reflective "satin" fabrics, tannin, blue-dyed cotton, etc. also being used in modern Tang suit jackets.
Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

traditional elements that are preserved: Pan buttons

These innovations have enriched the connotation of the Tang suit and blurred the boundaries, so that modern Tang suit can be worn in daily life as well as at work, broadening the occasions for wearing.

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change) Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)



How to choose the right Tang suit?

Traditional Tangzhuang

When we pick a traditional Tang suit, we have to pick according to the characteristics of each person's body. It is worth noting that when choosing colors, try to choose bright warm colors, which can be more youthful. The traditional Tang suit with red Tuanhua is more popular during the Spring Festival, when you pick, you can also try to choose some soft neutral colors, to ensure that it can be a refreshing sight.

Fashion Tangzhuang

Fashion Tang suit as a collection of traditional and trendy performance, inherited the fixed style version of Tang suit. Due to the influence of the Chinese stand collar as well as the Pan button, the overall can burst out a strong retro Chinese style.

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change) Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)

The first time you try the Tang suit, you can start with denim, cotton material, which is easier to match. In denim fabrics, it is common to also join the multi-pocket style, so that the overall style effect of fashion Tang suit more towards the workwear, Chinese style both hard grunge, easier to manage. In other details, try to structure the layers, the lower half of the pants neat and sharp best, more light sense.

Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change) Tang Suit - Chinese Traditional Costume (History & Change)


Nowadays, when it comes to what to wear for the New Year and auspicious occasions, the Tang suit is still mentioned. Although the Tang suit has failed to become some sort of costume general term, simply as a kind of Chinese jacket, and its design, along with the times, has changed. Nowadays, the Tang suit is gradually becoming fashionable, and you may be moved by it if you like Chinese clothing!

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