On the evening of 26 May, a unique discussion was taking place in a courtyard in Yibin, Sichuan Province.
The participants were all dressed in “Chinese traditional costumes“, including a round-necked robe from the Tang dynasty, a Beizi from the Song dynasty, and a short Aoqun from the Ming dynasty, giving a sense of time travel at first glance.
They are members of the Yibin Hanfu Association and are working on a plan for a ritual. Li Juan, the owner of the courtyard and president of the Yibin Hanfu Association, listens carefully and gives sound advice from time to time.
Li Juan is a lover of traditional culture and has won awards for excellence in calligraphy in Yibin’s Cui Ping District, and for excellence in Chinese painting from the Yibin Artists Association, etc.
She came across hanfu in 2013 and loved it so much that she has been promoting it with other hanfu enthusiasts ever since.
In December 2019, she took the lead in setting up the Yibin Hanfu Association, and has held many events such as the Flower Festival, coming-of-age ceremony, and the Qu Yuan Ritual Ceremony at the Dragon Boat Festival, bringing hanfu and traditional rituals to the public.
At present, the Yibin Hanfu Association has attracted more than 800 hanfu enthusiasts to join.
How the idea of “making more people know hanfu” was born?
“I’ve loved ancient costumes since I was a child, and I often used quilts and bedsheets as a cape to wear behind me.” Li Juan says.
She had a dream of wearing ancient clothes since she was a child and loved traditional cultures such as calligraphy and Chinese painting, so the first time she saw hanfu, she fell in love with them.
Li Juan’s story with the hanfu began in 2013, but the memory is full of bitterness. “When I first came across hanfu, I heard negative comments from passers-by when I walked down the street with other Tongpao (同袍) in hanfu.
Li Juan said it was particularly sad to her to hear these comments, “Hanfu, as a traditional Chinese costume, should not be subjected to strange looks”.
In Li Juan’s memory, similar sad stories have happened many times: “There is a dress in the hanfu called Xuanduan (玄端), which is the embodiment of the “clothing system” of Chinese dress, because traditional formal dresses are in favour of the colour Xuan, which is black.
And once when I needed such a dress for an event, I ran through all the tailor shops in Yibin, but no tailor was willing to make it, and they even blew me out.” Li Juan said that at the time, the tailors were unwilling to make such a dress.
This event had the fundamental aim of promoting and passing on the culture of traditional Chinese dress and etiquette.
At the event, a group of international students saw Li Juan and her friends wearing hanfu and asked if they could touch them. After Li Juan agreed, the international students carefully touched the Chinese costumes and exclaimed, “It’s so beautiful!”
Setting up a hanfu Association and organizing events to promote hanfu culture
Soon after returning from Hangzhou, Li Juan set about setting up a Hanfu Association.
Li Juan found the relevant institutions in Yibin, and after submitting an application, Li Juan’s idea was supported, and in December 2019, the Yibin Hanfu Association was officially established.
After the Hanfu Association was established, Li Juan and her team started to organise various activities to promote hanfu culture.
“Once we held a hanfu cultural event at the Taoist temple in Yibin Zhenwu Mountain, and a mother pointed to our clothes and asked her child ‘Is this hanfu pretty?’ The child replied that it was beautiful.”
“It made sense to do these activities, and more and more people are interested in learning about Chinese costumes.” Li Juan said.
The future is promising
In Li Juan’s opinion, it was both coincidental and inevitable that hanfu would become popular.
She says that with the efforts of more and more hanfu enthusiasts, more and more people have started to be attracted to the charm of hanfu.
The Hanfu Association that Li Juan set up has also grown to more than 800 people so far, with a large proportion of them being young students.
“It’s really happy to have young people join, but the youthfulness also brings a problem; many people only see the gorgeous appearance of the hanfu and think it’s enough to be fairy-like and pretty, but they don’t know enough about the cultural connotations behind it.” Li Juan pointed out that wearing hanfu is only a superficial appearance, and ultimately it is important to return to the profound traditional culture contained behind it.
In this regard, the Yibin Hanfu Association is working hard to combine hanfu with Yibin’s culture, hoping to make Yibin’s hanfu culture a signature of Yibin’s cultural tourism industry.
“Huang Tingjian, a literary figure of the Song Dynasty, was relegated to Yibin for three years, and after his death, Yibin built ‘Huang Wenjian Ancestral Hall’ ‘Diao Huang Lou’ and other buildings to commemorate Huang Tingjian, who was worshipped and mourned for 700 years.” Li Juan said.
“It was not until after the end of the Qing Dynasty that the rituals gradually disappeared into history.” And she submitted application documents to Yibin City in the hope of recreating the ritual and cultural activities of worshipping Huang Tingjian, using hanfu as a carrier to promote local cultural characteristics, inherit a rich historical and cultural heritage.
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