Originally published in China Youth Magazine, Issue 10, 2021
@Correspondent: Fan Tuan (饭团)
In recent years, there is a phenomenon that people can easily notice: more and more people in “ancient costumes” walking in the streets, they have wide robes and large sleeves, fluttering clothes, forming a landscape of their own, and most of them are young people. Their clothing is called Hanfu (汉服), and they call each other “Tongpao (同袍)” “Paozi (袍子)“.
So, what is Hanfu? Why are young people so keen on the Hanfu revival? How can ordinary people become Hanfu Tongpao?
In this article, we interviewed 10 Hanfu Tongpao. Among them, there are ordinary people, leaders of Hanfu societies, Hanfu models, businessmen, and social media celebrities. Let’s get closer to Hanfu in the stories of Tongpao.
Which Hanfu styles does Tongpao prefer?
Hanfu, also known as Han Yi Guan, Han Zhuang, and Hua Fu, is a unique Han style and accessory system that was formed through a natural evolution from the reign of the Yellow Emperor to the middle of the 17th century AD (late Ming and early Qing dynasties) in the main areas where the Han people lived, with the “Huaxia-Han” culture as the background and leading idea, and the Chinese ritual culture as the center.
The Chinese traditional clothing and accessory system is distinct from other ethnic groups. It has been passed down and evolved for thousands of years, making it a unique symbol of Chinese culture, and has captivated young people with its own beauty.
Different eras of Hanfu have different beauty, so in order to understand them at a glance, here we introduce to you the Hanfu styles of different dynasties in the form of pictures, and at the same time introduce to you the basic information of these ten Tongpao.
@Xie Ziruo is a “post-85” and the founder of Han Shan Hua Lian, a Chinese Hanfu clothing brand. She lives in Guangzhou and became a Tongpao around 2007.
As a senior Tongpao, she has more Hanfu and accessories than she can count, and her wardrobe room is mostly made of Tang and Song period clothing styles Hanfu.
@De Qing is a “post-85” teacher and leader of a Hanfu association, and lives in Beijing. He became a Hanfu Tongpao around 2008 and currently has more than a dozen sets of Hanfu, and has designed his own Hanfu patterns, made hairpins, and Chan Hua (缠花).
@Sheng Xia is a “Post 85” living in Australia. She is the president of the Chinese Cultural Association of Queensland and the president of the Hanfu Society of Queensland.
She became a Hanfu Tongpao in 2016, “I have two to three hundred sets of Hanfu, by conservative estimation. Basically, I have all the forms that are available in the market. There are also a lot of accessories.”
@Cai Hua is a “post-95” auto mechanic and Hanfu club leader, lives in Hong Kong. He became a Hanfu Tongpao in 2011 and currently has more than a dozen sets of Hanfu.
@Song Xiao Rou is a “post-90s” nurse who lives in Beijing. She became a Hanfu Tongpao in 2020 and currently has 35 sets of Hanfu, basically in the following forms: Tang, Ming, Song and Wei Jin.
@Shi Li is a “post-95” Hanfu model and internet celebrity living in Guangzhou. As a model, she became Hanfu Tongpao in 2019 and has worn countless hanfu, “Can I say that all the hanfu in the company are mine?”
@Mo Yu is a Han culture worker and Hanfu association leader living in Hangzhou. He became Hanfu Tongpao in 2018 and currently has more than two dozen Hanfu, covering most of the regular forms, “and even more accessories: from head to toe, inside to out, divided into materials, eras, styles, and literary and martial arts, very complete.”
@Pen Pen is a “post-90s” machine repairer and Hanfu model living in Nanjing. He became a Hanfu Tongpao in 2017 and currently has more than 40 sets of Hanfu.
@Fan Tuan, a civil servant living in Nanjing, became a Tongpao around 2012 and has bought many Hanfu, and currently has over 40 sets of Hanfu at home, covering common forms on the market.
@Xuan Li is a “post-95” company employee who lives in Beijing. He became a Hanfu Tongpao in 2017 and currently has about 20 sets of Hanfu, mainly Ming and Tang, and about 40 types of accessories.
Xuan Li runs a handmade martial arts workshop and often makes armor and accessories for himself and friends, as well as a set of armor for his pet cat, Babai.
“Hanfu Basic Guide” for you
You are only three steps away from becoming a “Tongpao”.
Step1: Maintain a sense of conviction
I think it’s important to improve national self-confidence and have more confidence in our culture.” says Sheng Xia, “Anyone who loves traditional Chinese culture and likes Hanfu is welcome to join Hanfu Tongpao.”
The first thing is to take away the burden of thinking that if you want to join, then you can become a Hanfu Tongpao at any time.
Step2: Have a Hanfu
Having a Hanfu of your choice is a sufficient condition to become a “Tongpao”.
You can choose to buy or rent it, or borrow it from a Hanfu Tongpao you know. In addition to choosing and buying Hanfu online, many cities also have brick-and-mortar stores that sell Hanfu, most of which are located in busy areas near famous sites, some Hanfu brands have counters in shopping malls.
If you want to experience the rental service, you can choose one of those stores called “Hanfu Experience Hall”. For Tongpao, Hanfu is not only a piece of clothing, but also a sign of respect and love for traditional culture and history.
Step3: Wear it out bravely
Xie Ziruo says, “I have two suggestions for going out in Hanfu for the first time. One, go out with your best friend (it doesn’t matter if your best friend wears Hanfu or not) to give yourself courage; and two, join a group of people who love Hanfu and will support and appreciate each other, so you won’t be embarrassed to wear it together.”
Sheng Xia said, “There are people overseas in Queensland who wear Hanfu every day to support Chinese culture, and it has become a new fashion to travel in Hanfu. Not to mention that there are so many Hanfu inspired (special fashions that incorporate Hanfu elements) that are suitable for everyday travel, remember there is us standing with you!”
Song Xiaofei added: “Trust me, once you have your first Hanfu outing, you will have countless others. Go for it!”
Q&A about Tongpao
Q: What do you think the role of Hanfu Tongpao should be?
Liu Weixiu: Hanfu is the cultural history of the Chinese nation for thousands of years, and we should respect it, and Tongpao should transmit more positive energy to the society, and do their best to spread good traditional culture.
Cai Hua: In fact, every Tongpao is an ordinary person, there is no specific role, as long as you do your part, insist on making efforts to put the Hanfu into practice, so that the public can deepen their understanding of the traditional costume of the Han nation, this is enough.
Q: There is a saying that wearing costumes depends on the occasion, and it is rude to wear Hanfu on the street, what do you think?
De Qing: Hanfu is also divided into formal and regular clothes. You can wear formal clothes for major events, but you can wear some plain colors and Han elements on the street, which is exactly respecting the etiquette.
Shi Li: It does depend on the occasion, but there are many types of Hanfu styles, you can wear them for shopping and dating, and there are also dignified Hanfu for important occasions, so Hanfu is not too restricted.
Sheng Xia: I personally agree that it depends on the occasion, for example, how judges and lawyers dress in court, or how doctors and nurses dress in hospitals. As for walking on the street, it is a matter of personal preference. As long as it does not affect others, does not affect others or public order, and is appropriately dressed, it is not rude. In fact, in foreign countries, we are more appreciated for walking on the street in national costumes, which is a manifestation of cultural confidence.
Q: As Hanfu Tongpao, have you ever encountered times when you were not understood? How did you cope with it?
Liu Weixiu: I have never encountered any lack of understanding. Whenever I go out in Hanfu, people like it very much, and sometimes even the children I meet on the roadside will come up to me and let me give them a hug.
De Qing: When I go out in Hanfu, I occasionally encounter passersby who say we are “opera singers or TV drama makers”, and I take the initiative to introduce Hanfu to them.
Mo Yu: Occasionally, I encounter some questions from the public: What are you filming? What kind of drama? Time-travel? The cos? Xu Xian? Asking for a group photo, etc., the way to handle it is usually to briefly introduce the Hanfu to them.
Q: With the increasing popularity of Hanfu, as a Tongpao, do you feel any changes around you?
Shi Li: I feel a lot of changes. Now there are more and more Hanfu activities, and more and more young people like Hanfu. Even in my home city, which is quite remote, I can see a lot of Hanfu wearers when I go back for Chinese New Year, which was not the case before. It means that Hanfu is more and more known, understood and liked by more and more people, and it attracts more and more people into it, which is a good thing.
Xuan Li: The reaction of the neighbors and passersby has changed from “What ethnic costume is this?” to “Hanfu is so beautiful”. The number of articles and shots of Hanfu on TV programs and online media is also increasing, and many TV parties also feature Hanfu.
Q&A about Association
Q: How did you become the head of the Hanfu Association? How many years have you been running the association?
De Qing: After I returned from studying abroad in 2019, I officially became a member of the Hanfu Association and traveled with everyone in Hanfu, and slowly learned more about Hanfu culture and started to enter the activities department to organize activities.
Mo Yu: I decided to set up a Hanfu organization in 2018, from the beginning when we all wore Hanfu together to communicate, to slowly developing into a comprehensive platform for Han culture.
Cai Hua: Before I set up the Hanfu Association, there were quite a few scattered Tongpao in Hong Kong, and we would hold events from time to time. But after a short time, everyone scattered for their own livelihoods and I felt very pity. After that, I had the opportunity to participate in the cultural activities of the Hanfu Association in the Mainland, and I was determined to promote Hanfu culture in Hong Kong and to establish a home for the scattered Hanfu Tongpao. Therefore, in 2013, I officially established “Hanfu Hong Kong” in Hong Kong, and it has been operating for 8 years now.
Sheng Xia: I have been the head of the Queensland Hanfu Association since its inception in 2016. The society has been operating for 4 years now and is based in Queensland, Australia.
Q：Where do the members of the association come from? The size of the association? How long did it take to grow to its current size?
De Qing: The members are all Hanfu lovers and people who are interested in Hanfu culture. Currently there are about 3000 people, and it took more than ten years to develop and promote.
Mo Yu: The members are mainly from Hangzhou, but some are from other parts of China. There are currently 500 to 600 people. It took almost a year.
Cai Hua: Now most of the same robes are searched from the online social platform, about two or three hundred people.
Sheng Xia: There are about 150 official members in the association. There are more than 700 people in the online group. It took 4 years to grow to its current size.
Q: What Hanfu events have you organized? Where does the funding come from?
De Qing: I have organized small events on weekends, the big ones are Double Seventh Festival, and Hanfu Outing Day, especially Hanfu Outing Day. Funding comes from business sponsorship, legal donations from individuals, etc.
Mo Yu: We still have a lot of activities, basically covering all traditional festivals (except for special festivals such as the Chinese New Year and Qingming). The registration fee is part of it, but the rest is still mainly paid by ourselves.
Cai Hua: In addition to traditional festival gatherings, we also cooperate with other organizations from time to time to hold large-scale showcase events. We have recently started working with schools to promote Hanfu culture in the classroom, and the response has been quite good. Many schools are interested in traditional Hanfu culture, and the public is generally receptive to this type of culture. The cost of the event is usually covered by the Tongpao.
Sheng Xia: We hold a lot of Hanfu events, both online and offline. The activities are all funded by donations from groups or individuals in the community who love Hanfu culture.
Q: What do you think is the significance of the Hanfu Association?
De Qing: To promote national culture, to organize activities for Hanfu lovers, to give people a sense of belonging, so that more people will understand Hanfu, like it and will wear it when they go out.
Mo Yu: Because of the efforts of these associations, Hanfu is known and understood by more people, and various Hanfu organizations are the backbone of Hanfu revival and development.
Cai Hua: I believe that in Hong Kong, the Hanfu Association has a very different meaning. Every Tongpao when they first put on the Hanfu would think: Am I the only person in Hong Kong who can wear Hanfu? So when I made up my mind to set up the Hanfu Association, apart from promoting the culture, I also wanted to make it a haven in the storm, so that people can find a home of their own when they are isolated outside.
Sheng Xia: To pass on and promote the excellent Chinese traditional culture, to increase national self-confidence, and to allow the next generation born or raised abroad to have more direct access to these cultures so that they can feel proud to be a Chinese.
Q: What is your biggest gain during running the association?
De Qing: The biggest gain is to meet a lot of Tongpao, you can talk about hobbies together.
Mo Yu: The biggest gain is that many like-minded people come together, work together and grow together because of the same hobby and the same goal, share tears and joys, the team gets bigger and bigger, and eventually realize the ideal together.
Cai Hua: There is nothing more rewarding than meeting many people in the cultural sector in Hong Kong, and through exchanges, I learned a lot of truths from them. There is nothing more memorable than being able to invite the former Chief Executive to wear Hanfu together at an event.
Sheng Xia: Once when we went out in Hanfu, a foreigner came up to us and said, “Your Hanfu is so beautiful” in Chinese. And after each parent-child event, many of the messages from parents on social media were “The Dragon’s Heir”. I think this is the meaning and reward of our Hanfu Association!
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