Nowadays, more and more people like Hanfu, and Hanfu is gradually accepted by everyone, few people still think that Hanfu is just “the costume of the Han Dynasty”, but how much do you know about the history of Hanfu from the Western Zhou to the Ming Dynasty?
We often see Hanfu in movies and TV shows, such as the “Serenade of Peaceful Joy”, in which the emperor and officials love to wear round-necked robes, while the women mostly wear Beizi and Moxiong, all from the Song Dynasty. But this is only one branch of the Hanfu, and today we will talk about the costume of the Han people from an earlier dynasty.
Hanfu in Western Zhou
There is a familiar book, Book of Odes, which contains poems that people loved to sing during the western Zhou and before, and in these poems, the original beauty of the Hanfu can be found. For example: “祁祁如云 (qiqiruyun)”: it is that the woman’s garments are as white as the clouds. Western Zhou loved natural beauty, especially for women, who wore white dresses, as well as white yarn at ceremonies and weddings.
But the interesting thing is that men at that time loved red clothes and red makeup. They liked to wear “red clothes and gold shoes”, and even the armor of warriors was dyed red. It was a time when men’s clothes were beautiful and women’s clothes were plain.
Ruqun & Jiaoling Youren
During the Han dynasty, Ruqun was the most common form of clothing, with the upper garment and the lower skirt. The most popular combination for the beautiful woman Qin Luofu in the Han dynasty was an egg-yellow lower skirt and a purple damask upper skirt.
Because the top was “Jiaoling Youren (交领右衽: crossed collars and right overlapping part)”, it looked like the Chinese word “又” in front of the chest and as a heart shape if several pieces of clothing were stacked on top of each other. This form of clothing continued into the Song and Ming dynasties.
The noblest clothes, Shenyi
During the Han Dynasty, a more ancient style of clothing was also popular, called the “Shenyi” in which the garment and the skirt were joined together to cover the body. They were cut separately during the production process but eventually sewn together. Shaped like a modern long dress, but it was more expensive and often worn by concubines and aristocrats.
The clothes were wide enough to completely cover the body, resembling a loose “cicada chrysalis”. They have been around since the Warring States period, but seem to have become extinct since the Han Dynasty.
A pair of trousers, called Jing clothing (胫衣), is a kind of “underwear” (Ancient underwear refers to the clothes worn on the inside). These trousers were essentially crotchless trousers and were a common way of dressing at the time. It was precisely because it was indecent to show the “underpants” that the ancients made their deep garments so large that they covered the body.
Hanfu in Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties
The traditional Hanfu costume has been reformed twice due to the war.
The first one was during the Warring States period, when King Wu Ling of Zhao, before the reform, soldiers wore wide robes and big sleeves to fight, which was not conducive to riding horses and archery, so he introduced the northern-style clothing. The dress of ethnic minorities was changed to short, tight-sleeved clothes and long trousers. Later, not only soldiers but also ordinary people started to wear them.
Another time during the Wei, Jin, and North-South dynasties, the long years of warfare not only caused psychological trauma but also left traces on clothing. “Liangdang (两档)” was originally the underwear of the ancients, the people found that the soldiers’ armor outer layer and “Liangdang” as long as the same, so they followed suit, the underwear outside wearing. It’s kind of like the modern-day person who wears their long clothes inside and adds a short vest outside. This reform was initiated by women and was welcomed by them even more.
Wei & Jin is the most politically chaotic and socially painful era in China, yet it is also an era of extreme freedom, liberation, intelligence, and passion in the history of spirituality.
As can be seen in the costume, the sleeves of the blouse are so wide that they can almost hang to the ground, the material is extremely soft and light, and the waist likes to be tied with a long belt, walking with big sleeves and a fluttering belt.
If a dynasty has a color, the Tang Dynasty must be the color of the delicate red and green flowers. The dresses of the ladies in the picture below are red and green, the most common color combination in the Tang dynasty and the dresses were often in different colors. The contrasts are great. Orange on top and blue on the bottom, or green on top and egg yolk on the bottom, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and white each with their own variations, the women of this era seek individuality.
Qixiong Ruqun & Hezi skirt
The Qixiong Ruqun, with the skirt pulled up to the height of the chest, was very popular in the Tang Dynasty. The Hezi in the Hezi skirt was originally a Moxiong, but later it was sewn together with the skirt to become a dress, which could be worn with a light, wide-sleeved shirt in summer.
The popularity of Hu clothing
There’s a story in “Da Tang Xinyu (大唐新语)” where a rich man in Chang’an City is robbed by the Hu people and is not arrested for a long time. Someone said, “Why don’t we arrest all the Hu people for questioning? The official said, “Nowadays, the Hu people wear Hanfu clothing, and the Han people also wear Hu clothing, how can we tell the difference?
In the middle of the Tang Dynasty, both men and women liked to wear Hu clothing. The women, in particular, accepted the clothing of the Hu directly without changing it. They liked to ride horses and also liked to wear Hu hats, which were trendy and also blocked the dust on the road.
In terms of clothing, the Song people did not pursue the rich colors of the Tang Dynasty, but preferred to pursue variations on the same color scheme, and favored the lightness and elegance of white.
In the “Serenade of Peaceful Joy”, Song Ren Zong often wore a white robe with a round neck in the court. But not just white, but also special use of silk thread colors, weaving different patterns, making the white rich layers.
Among the Song women’s clothes, the Beizi (褙子) is the most representative and is the most daily clothing for women. The Beizi have narrow sleeves and are either knee-length or ankle-length, with slits at the side of the Beizi. Beizi also advocates simplicity. In addition to the light patterns on the fabric, the neckline also has simple decoration, which is the finishing touch.
The center seam
If you look closely at this portrait of Song Renzong, you’ll notice a straight line on the chest, which is actually a sewing thread, stitching two pieces of clothing together. It is also found in modern clothes, but not in the middle of the garment. This line is called the “middle stitch”. It is used to straighten and put on the garment properly when wearing it. It also warns us to walk upright, sit upright, and be impartial.
In the early Ming Dynasty, the people were quite fond of simplicity and wore cloth robes, which were very simple. Even in the rich merchant’s family, expensive clothes were only worn during festivals.
However, after Chenghua (成化), clothing become more luxurious. The scarves worn by scholars began to be inlaid with jade; the shoes were red, purple, yellow, and green. The silk and yarn also began to use.
Clothing trends changed rapidly during the Ming dynasty. There were sleeveless tunics, called Majia(马甲), which were much longer than the ones we wear today. There are also stand collars shirts, which wrap around the neck and are held in place by a pair of buttons, which are available in gold or jade. Many people think it’s because of the strict ritual, but it’s more because of the trend.
This is the history of Hanfu from the Western Zhou Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty. Of course, there are many kinds of costumes, which can not be detailed one by one. We can also see the beauty of the costumes of each dynasty from which we can see their charm.