The explosion of hanfu in China in recent years can be described as a top-to-bottom movement of traditional literary revival. Both the popularization of knowledge by various academic professionals and the vigorous promotion by private forces have brought the field to life.
The reason why hanfu is as blooming as it is today is that there are many people who have played a pivotal role in driving this trend. For example, “Yan Wang wf (燕王wf)“.
Yan Wang wf
He is a researcher of ancient Chinese costumes, also an illustrated book writer, has participated in the restoration of historical figures for many times, and was the dress director of the drama “Serenade of Peaceful Joy (清平乐)”.
Written and published “A Guide of Time Travel to the Tang Dynasty”, and has worked with publications such as “China National Travel” and “Chinese Heritage”.
The mysterious forum years
The topic started more than ten years ago, when there was a relative lack of channels for ancient costume enthusiasts to gain knowledge about hanfu. Xiefang Zhuren (撷芳主人) and a few friends created a forum, and Yan Wang was one of the main members.
After the forum was established, Yan Wang shared the latest diagrams and information on the forum together with other patriarchs, attracting many ancient costume lovers who came to seek knowledge. Speaking of this, Yan Wang felt very emotional, he felt that the current hanfu enthusiasts had not experienced the pain of seeking knowledge in the era of lack of information.
It sounds like a process full of accomplishment, “At that time it was to go to the bookstore and find books, and scan them to the computer after finding good books and good pictures. At that time, I was in this mood, always waiting for new information every day, just to see who would send some information that I hadn’t seen before.”
Especially in 2003, when Wang Le Tian wore hanfu and walked on the streets of Zhengzhou, many hanfu enthusiasts were encouraged to try taking pictures and even walking on the streets in hanfu. Yan Wang and his friends also opened a special section in the forum for friends to show their pictures of themselves wearing hanfu on the street.
Yan Wang also had a very special position in the forum at that time, as he provided a large number of rigorously researched illustrations for everyone.
For fellow enthusiasts at the time, most of the pictures scanned from archaeological reports and books, the lines, structures, and colors of the costumes were blurred because of the age, requiring someone with spatial imagination and modeling ability to do another sorting and conversion with a strong art foundation.
Yan Wang’s paintings are so important that many online enthusiasts still use his work as illustrations for their own articles today.
An unusual beginning
Unlike today’s social media and other forms of rich content related to Chinese traditional clothing, more than a decade ago, the concept of traditional culture is still serious and stereotypical, a variety of materials due to a large number of references to ancient literature difficult to read, the “entry” threshold is high to dissuade many people.
Yan Wang has taken these difficult-to-read texts and combined them with artifacts and images to create more vivid and intuitive expressions or pictures, so that more people can understand them and have more possibilities to enjoy traditional Chinese clothing.
Yan Wang graduated from the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts with a degree in animation, and his fascination with ancient culture and costumes led him to try to combine his major and hobby together.
Since his college days, Yan Wang has slowly fixed his style. At that time, he drew the moe version of “Sou Shan Tu (搜山图)”, which was a combination of the moe comic style and the ancient famous painting, and gained everyone’s recognition.
After graduation, although he worked as an animation director at CCTV, but he never gave up on his hobby. In that period, people still had a conservative and single-minded concept of traditional subjects, Yan Wang cleverly combined the sense of moe and fun of cartoons with the subjects and images of traditional paintings, and this kind of work, which was both strict and in line with modern aesthetics, was a big hit.
In the spare time, Yan Wang also focuses on creating his own style of ancient ladies’ paintings. In the beginning, he didn’t know the knowledge of ancient Chinese costumes systematically, he just drew the works he thought looked good compared with the information, but in the process of creation, he found out that costumes were a very important part of it.
“When I was graduating from college in 2006, hanfu had just emerged. Later, after joining the forum, I saw Yongchang Guowang (the forum patriarch) provides some materials to everyone for free, and that’s when I started to get in touch with ancient hanfu costumes systematically in this way.”
In 2012, the Shandong Museum held the “Confucius Old Collection Costume Exhibition”, which was Yan Wang’s first official curatorial work as an illustrator. “At that time, the exhibition needed some pictures or text to introduce the display boards, and wanted our help to make them.” Yan Wang said.
Yan Wang then designed a set of cartoon versions of the Ji Fu costume dolls based on the old Confucian costume collection, which is cute in shape and particularly elaborate in their costume details, so that they show the costume culture to the fullest. This kind of cartoon presentation may seem commonplace today, but it was uncommon a decade ago.
Focus on illustration works
In September 2014, Yan Wang released a series of her own sticker drawings of the Chinese empress, which were full of comedy and subverted the seriousness of ancient costume drawings, and immediately became a sensation on the Internet.
In 2018, Yan Wang was invited by author Meng Hui to illustrate her full-length novel Yu Lan Bian (盂兰变, A Story Told on Ghost Day, color illustrated collector’s book), a job he took as a staged exam for himself. “I hadn’t been exposed to such a large volume of illustration work before, and Yu Lan Bian has nearly 100 pages.” Therefore, he felt it was a challenge and a new attempt.
In this book, author Meng Hui takes the Wu Zhou period as the background, in which a large number of pages depict some details such as women’s morning rising, dressing, and fragrance, etc. This grasp of details needs to be based on a good knowledge of a large number of materials before it is possible to transform these originally cold historical materials into vivid life, which is part of the reason that Yan Wang was attracted to draw illustrations for it.
Another reason why Yan Wang was attracted to this work was that the book was inspired by Meng Hui’s trip to Iran, where Yan Wang happened to be interested in Islamic art, so they decided to collaborate immediately.
Since the Tang Dynasty was an era of open-mindedness and cultural and artistic activity, with a large influx of western Sogdia civilizations into the Central Plains, Yan Wang chose to imitate the style of the most important traditional Iranian art, Persian miniature.
This style of painting is different from the Western system of painting, which is concerned with perspective, and completely disregards spatial relationships, with exquisite and exaggerated details, bold colors, and a strong visual impact.
This bold and culturally relevant attempt brings readers a fresh and interesting visual experience, and is a very satisfying creation for Yan Wang.
In 2019, Yan Wang officially became an illustrator. He now mainly contributes to material literature and history publishers such as “China National Travel” and “Chinese Heritage”, draws some niche science popularization paintings, and also draws some illustrations for his friends’ books, while doing some costume consultant for film and TV dramas.
The beginning of a new career
Working as a costume consultant for film and drama productions is a new beginning in Yan Wang’s long journey of ancient hanfu costume hobby. In recent years, Chinese costume dramas have started to become emphasizing elaborate costumes, pursuing authenticity, and showing the living conditions of the ancient people.
In early 2019, Yan Wang, Yangmei Jianwu (扬眉剑舞), and Xiefang Zhuren were invited as costume consultants to appear on the stage of National Treasure, where they explained the Confucius Old Collection Costume to the audience.
“Yangmei Jianwu has been working as a costume consultant for National Treasure, and the leader felt that he could be on an issue of the show himself and tell his story. Yang Mei then thought he could call interested friends to come along. ”
“At that time, I had just finished my vacation and got off the train when I received a phone call from Yang Mei, who asked me if I was interested in being on National Treasure. He said it was about Confucian Old Collection Costume, and it just so happened that we participated in an exhibition about Confucius Old Collection Costume Exhibition at the Shandong Museum in 2012, so we had a connection. Yang Mei then said, you and Xiefang together to come over as guests, I agreed.”
In the program, Yan Wang’s trio introduced the audience in detail to the different features of these hanfu collections, the details in the costumes, and the auspicious meanings of the patterns.
The airing of this program also brought many film and television practitioners to focus on the examination and certification of traditional costumes, opening the door to a new career for Yan Wang.
The 2020 release of “Serenade of Peaceful Joy” is a drama production in which Yan Wang worked as a costume consultant together with Yangmei Jianwu.
For the formal dresses that appear in “Serenade of Peaceful Joy,” Yangmei Jianwu is in charge of the koan aspect, while Yan Wang is responsible for doing the drawing and design.
“We are only responsible for the formal dress part of the drama’s costumes because the director has his own ideas and aesthetics for the daily dress part. The dress part was basically done according to the traditional costume system, and it still worked well. The production unit was quite cooperative, and this cooperation was considered a relatively pleasant one.”
Yan Wang also says that not every collaboration is so successful. The final decision on how well a film or drama’s costumes are made does not rest with the costume consultant either, it depends on the attitude of the show’s designers and director. “We are responsible for providing information in advance, but the decision does not lie with us.”
It is said that now the audience’s demand is getting more and more tricky, watching Chinese costume dramas must see the costume elaborate, but is that really the case?
Yan Wang thinks, “There are two parts of the audience: one is those who don’t know much about costumes, but think it’s good if they look a little better and more sophisticated than before. The other part is the hanfu enthusiasts, who may focus on the costumes. However, a serious problem with many Chinese historical costume dramas is that there is no sense of time. Not only is the costume system of a particular dynasty inaccurate, but almost no one even pays attention to the fact that the costumes change at different times during the same dynasty.”
In this regard, Yan Wang popularized, “The development of ancient Chinese costumes also involves fashions, and hanfu costumes can be basically divided according to the history of the system and the history of popularity, which is not the same as Western costumes. So it’s not very reasonable to talk about Tang Dynasty costumes, Ming Dynasty costumes, or Qing Dynasty costumes in general.
Maybe in people’s impression, the Ming Dynasty costumes are just the same, they have been worn for two or three hundred years, but if refine it, it may be popular for decades or ten years, but this is something people may not realize. In fact, it is more reasonable to fix the division according to the popular era.”
And the extent to which we know about ancient costumes is limited by the amount of information that has survived. “For example, in the 300 years of the Tang Dynasty, the tomb murals before the An Lushan Rebellion (安史之乱) were very dense, you can basically see that there was a popular change in 10 years or a few years. ”
“But after the An Lushan Rebellion, there were fewer Tang tombs in the Guanzhong area, and fewer terracotta figurines were unearthed, so there was no way to distinguish them so clearly. The abundance of information determines how far you can divide a certain dynasty, and the Ming and Qing dynasties are closer to us, and it can be divided very clearly, both pictorially and textually.” Yan Wang said.
Through Yan Wang’s description, we can feel the contribution that hanfu enthusiasts made to the development of the early hanfu. Likewise, we get a clear sense of the evolution of hanfu.
In this process, we see more and more people pay attention to this circle, try to understand the ancient Chinese traditional costumes, and love them from their hearts. Today, we are surprised to see more young people looking back at the past, and Yan Wang and his friends are pioneers that cannot be ignored.
Article from: C/Q\CHINA 磁器
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