Through your dislike of the gauze hat as mean,
You have come to be locked in a cangue;
Yesterday, poor fellow, you felt cold in a tattered coat,
To-day, you despise the purple embroidered dress as long!
Confusion reigns far and wide! you have just sung your part, I come on
Instead of yours, you recognise another as your native land;
What utter perversion!
In one word, it comes to this we make wedding clothes for others!
– The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin, translated by H. Bencroft Joly
In my native culture, we have such a saying: While at first you’re welcomed according to your clothes, next you’ll be treated according to your wisdom. Indeed, how much we can say of a person by his dressing, how many metaphors on his background, status and way of life can be expressed through dress! Like in words of Shih-yin from The Dream of the Red Chamber, where ideas of complexity and instability of human life and intergenerational relationships were put in words about tattered, embroidered, and wedding clothes. So, if wear can say so much about a particular person, does it tell us something about whole cultures? Oh, sure it does, I can testify this!
Exactly Chinese traditional fashion was a window for me into the wonderful culture of this highly gifted nation. From a very young age, I was interested in the history and traditions of folks of the world, and, of course, the first thing that you see every time you search for such things is aesthetics such as folk costume. In some way it’s a face of a nation, I believe. It can say about people so much more than some stereotypes about a nation’s appearance! As you already probably guessed, this is how I first met hanfu.
A few years ago I saw some photos from, as I was informed later, the Qingming Festival, with men and women wearing hanfu dress. I was touched by how pure and ceremonious it looked. At that time nearly the only thing I knew about China was where it’s situated on the World’s map. That’s how my interest in Chung Kuo started.
The thing that amazed me most about hanfu is how diverse it is. I’ve mentioned how formal it was by first impression. And I was truly fascinated when I learned that some Hanfus looks even… easy! While some of the dresses look really exotic, some seem very familiar – especially of the Tang dynasty for example. A little detail can say a world to you – such as how folding corners of the hat is folded for example! From what I know now, Hanfu culture is a whole world, and this is what makes it different from cosplay or reconstruction. This is living tradition that grew from daily practices of a society, so it embodies the lives of millions of people through centuries of history. It can be only praised that in times of unification someone carries his authenticity! Hanfu depicts the soul of Chinese folk I believe: how diverse and identical, how lush and modest at the same time they both are.
Since I’ve first encountered Chinese culture through enjoying aesthetics of Hanfu I’ve read some books of Chinese authors or about China, watched films, videos and donghuas. Of course, I’m still very far from understanding Han culture. But at least I know, that knowledge (even such frugal as mine) leaves no place to fear. It is kind of natural for humans to fear and even hate the unknown, dissimilar. So I believe that in the world where people learn about other cultures and traditions would be no place for xenophobia.
I sincerely wish luck to your community. First I met your site when I was searching photos of Hanfu, to describe it more correctly in the novel that I’m writing. Since then I’ve got a much deeper understanding of traditional Chinese fashion. Thank you for that! Sadly, I have no photos to add, because I’ve never had Hanfu yet. It’s really pleasant to see how people preserve their identity and help others to get acquainted with it, making bridges through language and culture barriers!
谢谢您! Спасибо вам!
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