Weddings are important ceremonies across the globe and one of the most fascinating aspects is the attire worn by the bride and groom. China, in particular, boasts a rich history of traditional wedding clothing that has evolved over thousands of years. From the hanfu of the ancient dynasties to the modern qipao, each style holds significant cultural and symbolic meaning. In this article, we will delve into the captivating history of Chinese wedding attire and explore the significance behind some of the most iconic designs.
Black Wedding Attire in Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was known for its emphasis on ritual and its marriage system also highlighted this. The wedding ceremony in the Zhou Dynasty was called the "Hun Ceremony". As the name suggests, "Hun" means dusk, and the ceremony was held at dusk, with a solemn and dignified atmosphere. "The Book of Rites - The Ceremony of the Marriage of a Scholar" is the earliest record of Chinese wedding ceremony, and of course, it is not only applicable to the scholar class.
According to "The Book of Rites", the wedding attire of the Zhou Dynasty was mainly black with red as a complementary color. In the eyes of the Zhou dynasty people, black represents the heavens (black with red), and red represents the earth (light crimson). The color of the wedding attire reflects the reverence of the ancestors of the Zhou Dynasty for the heavens and the earth.
The groom wore a black robe with a ceremonial hat, and the bride wore a black dress with a light crimson hem. The difference in the dress style between the bride and groom was not significant, as they both wore a robe-style garment with no distinction between the upper and lower parts. The knee-length garment and shoes were also black, with black as the main color. Some scholars believe that this style was meant to express the faithfulness of women.
Chinese Wedding Attire of the Han Dynasty
What was the form of women's wedding clothing during Han dynasty? Perhaps we can gain some insight from ancient poetry and use it as evidence for history.
"Southeast Fly the Peacocks," as the longest narrative poem in ancient times, draws from a tragic love story during the reign of Emperor Xian of the Han Dynasty.
"At the crow of the rooster, before dawn, the new bride rises to put on her makeup. She wears a skirt with embroidered patterns, which is versatile in every way. Her feet are adorned with silk shoes, and her head shines with a tortoiseshell hairpin. Her waist is as slim as a silk ribbon, and her ears are decorated with pearl earrings. Her fingers are as slender as a sliced onion, and her lips are as red as cinnabar. She walks with delicate steps, exquisitely unmatched in the world."
The image of the new bride Liu Lanzhi comes to life, from her clothing, hair accessories, waistbands to shoes. In addition, there are numerous Han Dynasty costumes unearthed from the Changsha Mawangdui Han Tomb, such as silk embroidered robes and silk skirts, which provide reliable information for our understanding of the clothing styles of that time.
The style of Han women's wedding attire varied, with one-piece robe styles and also jackets and skirts, which were typical upper and lower garments. The jacket was short and the skirt was long, almost touching the ground. The waistline of the skirt was divided into different heights, such as waist-level, chest-level, and high-waisted. The collar style was also divided into curved collar and straight collar.
In addition, the embroidery of the Han Dynasty wedding attire was even more exquisite, with more and more vibrant colors. Not only was black used, but also red and yellow. Of course, due to the Han Dynasty inheriting the Qin Dynasty's system, and the Qin Dynasty following the Zhou Dynasty's system, wedding clothing still mainly used black.
White Chinese Wedding Attire in Ancient
During the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, a large number of paintings were left behind, which allowed us to glimpse the elegance of the time. Gu Kaizhi's "The Picture of the Ode of the River Goddess" shows the women's clothing of the time, with the goddess wearing a right-lapel, cross-collar jacket, with a flying cloud bun, wide sleeves fluttering, and a fairy-like appearance. The clothing styles of the Wei, Jin, Southern, and Northern Dynasties were basically still based on the old Qin and Han styles, with the main garments being the Ru and Shan.
It is difficult to imagine that the Wei and Jin Dynasties especially revered white, and women's regular and even wedding attire was white for a long time. In the perception of most people, white is more commonly used in funerals, so white wedding dresses are undoubtedly a big subversion of traditional impressions.
In Zhang Bi's "Old Stories of the Eastern Palace," he recorded the customs of the Jin Crown Prince Yi, "When the Crown Prince married, he wore a white robe, white veil, white silk shirt, and purple knotted tassels." It is clear that white wedding attire was one of the wedding dresses of the Wei and Jin Dynasties, and the wedding dresses were also lighter and more elegant. Perhaps because Wei and Jin metaphysics was popular, the nobility emphasized that nothingness is the foundation, so the people of this period returned to simplicity and began to follow a simple and elegant style.
Red & Green Wedding Attire in Tang, Song Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was the most glorious feudal dynasty in Chinese history, with an open and inclusive attitude that was highly admired. The wedding dresses of the Tang Dynasty were certainly in line with the Tang style, with elegance and luxury that were absolutely top notch. During this period, wedding dresses were dominated by deep red and cyan colors. Historical records show that "the groom wears a red official uniform to welcome the bride", while the women wore "cyan dresses with flower hairpins, and leather belts". Perhaps it was these bold and vibrant colors that were worthy of the prosperous and magnificent Tang atmosphere.
Tang people attached great importance to the embellishment effect of accessories such as hairpins and jewelry on wedding dresses, and even hairpins and jewelry became important popular formal wear at the time.
The form of the Song Dynasty's wedding dress was based on that of the Tang Dynasty, with slight changes, moving from ornate and luxurious to simple and restrained. The Song Dynasty's wedding dress, called the "Dashan", was a long-sleeved shirt, mostly in cyan.
Classic Red Chinese Wedding Attire - Ming Dynasty
In a feudal society with strict rules and regulations on clothing and color selection, the Ming Dynasty was probably the most friendly era for weddings among the common people, as the founding emperor Zhu Yuanzhang tacitly approved of it, ordinary people can wear the red official's clothes on the day of the wedding, and were allowed to wear the official robes of the ninth rank, while the bride could also wear the ninth-rank concubine's Feng Guan Xia Pei.
The bright red shirt was closed at the front with a round collar, and worn with a red long skirt with many pleats and a wide hem. The style of the long skirt was greatly changed, with the previous style being a short top and long bottom, which changed to a long top and short bottom.
The Ming Dynasty's wedding dress was dominated by bright red, and it is widely recognized that red wedding dresses were a traditional custom that was established and confirmed in the Ming Dynasty, and is considered a typical representative of Chinese wedding attire in later generations.
The classic traditional wedding dress of a bright red shirt, long skirt, and phoenix crown and cape has been passed down to this day. The above is only a partial introduction to the wedding dresses of the ancient Han Dynasty in China. In fact, even in the same dynasty, wedding dresses varied greatly depending on the period and social class.
Therefore, this is only a brief overview, and there is much more detailed research and study behind it. If you are interested, you can search for relevant information to further understand it.