The Xia Dynasty, believed to be the first dynasty in Chinese history, lasted from around 2070 BCE to 1600 BCE. Despite its importance, little is known about the Xia Dynasty's customs and traditions. One area that has captured the interest of historians and anthropologists is the clothing and makeup worn by the people during this period. In this article, we will take a brief look into the fascinating world of Xia Dynasty costumes and makeup, exploring their styles, materials, and cultural significance.
The Clothing of the Xia Dynasty
After successfully controlling the floods, Yu the Great was spontaneously supported by the people and established the Xia Dynasty. The system of succession was changed from abdication to hereditary. There were a total of fourteen generations in the Xia Dynasty, which lasted for about 471 years. This dynasty marked the formation of China's slave society, and the clothing system developed during this period, known as the "Guanfu" system, was one of the earliest forms of dress code in Chinese history.
In ancient primitive times, clothing was primarily a result of aesthetic and sexual competition needs, followed by the requirement for warmth. During the periods of the Yellow Emperor, Yao, Shun, and Yu, silk production was invented, making China one of the earliest producers of silk textiles in the world. By the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties, the production of textile raw materials such as hemp, silk, and wool had already grown to a large scale, and clothing was often dyed using cinnabar. During Xia Dynasty, many towns were known for their textiles, such as Bo's Zuan Zu, Chao Ge's Luo Qi, and Xiangyi's Zhi Jin.
During the Xia Dynasty, due to the gap in social class and wealth, clothing differentiation had already emerged, and people could distinguish between levels of status based on what clothes they wore. Among them, the clothing of the noble class is mainly made of cotton and silk fabrics, fine hemp, and other high-level materials to produce. And the clothing of the common class is mainly coarse hemp or coarse kudzu fabric, there are some poorer people will use the autumn dry yellow plant stems and leaves to make clothes.
During grand sacrificial ceremonies, the traditional Mian Fu (冕服, formal dress) was inherited. The attire consisted of a cross-collar with the right lapel over the left, a black upper garment, and a red lower garment, adorned with a twelve Zhangwen This ensemble exuded an awe-inspiring solemnity and extraordinary grace, symbolizing the Xia people's reverence for the universe.
The colors of the costumes of the Xia Dynasty were all black and dark, with blue being particularly favored as Xia Dynasty was associated with the wood element. According to the "Book of Rites," the Xia people preferred black, and used darkness for funerals, black horses for military affairs, and black animals for sacrifices. The Xia people would wear black clothes with white edges to attend funerals.
The Xia Dynasty established a complete set of imperial ceremonial attire - centered on the Mian Fu system, which gradually shifted towards lighter and more vibrant colors in later periods. Another distinctive feature of Xia Dynasty clothing was the use of black upper garments and yellow lower garments. The upper garment represented the heavens, as the sky at dawn is black, hence it was made in black. The lower garment symbolized the earth, as the earth is yellow, thus it was made in yellow.
Both men and women engaged in labor, so the sleeves were narrow and the clothes fitted tightly. As there was limited production capacity, people did not have much cloth available, which contributed to the tight fit. As productivity improved, the clothes became looser. However, the changes in clothing for ordinary people were not significant, as the ruling class had more money to design their clothes in a loose and baggy style. Over time, the small robe gradually replaced the upper garment. The robe was knee-length, with long sleeves and a wider cut, paired with wide trousers and a broad waistband.
The makeup of the Xia Dynasty
The Xia Dynasty existed during the late period of the Neolithic Age, and there was not much difference in terms of makeup and hairstyle compared to the time of Yellow Emperor. The main hair accessory during this period was a natural style with hair hanging down or draped over the shoulders or face. People would also apply makeup on their lips, commonly using red pigments, which may have been the origin of lipstick. Painting on the face was also a significant decoration at that time.
During the Xia Dynasty, it was popular to use and make decorative ornaments. This was probably the earliest form of creating necklaces for modern people, including arm rings (armlets) and bracelets.