Iron is a common small appliance in modern homes, and almost every home has one, but did you know that irons have been in use since 2000 years ago, or even earlier? How did the ancients iron Hanfu?
The Origin of the Ancient Iron
The origin of the name “Yundou (熨斗, iron)” is that its image is similar to that of “Big Dipper”, and secondly, the shape of the Yundou is like the China ancient cooking utensil “Dou (斗)”. In ancient China, the Yundou, also known as “fire Dou”, “gold Dou (an iron made of gilding technology, it is not a general folk good)”, “Gumu (钴鉧, gǔ mǔ)”, its main function is to iron Hanfu clothes, the effect is two: one is to iron out any wrinkled areas of clothing, another effect is to iron the pleats, at where need to be visibly pleated.
The first iron was made of stones, pottery, or copper, roasting on the fire, and then pressed on the clothes to iron them. It is said that iron was invented before the end of the Shang Dynasty. King Zhou of the Shang Dynasty was inspired by the fact that irons burned people’s hands when they were used, and invented the “Paoluo (炮烙)”, in which the person in need of punishment was roasted on a hot copper pole.
Different Methods of Iron Hanfu in Different Dynasties
The earliest physical iron is in the Western Han Dynasty, in the Han tomb, there are often iron unearthed. Most of the ironing irons of the Han Dynasty were made of bronze, with rounded bellies, wide mouth edges, and long handles, some of which were decorated with dragon patterns at the end of handles. Before ironing, burning charcoal was placed inside the iron, and the heat and weight of the metal were used to smooth out pleats or iron beautiful pleats in the clothes.
During the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern dynasties, iron has been more popular, has become the basic household utensils, the use of the same method and the Han Dynasty, the main material is copper or iron, not installed wooden handle.
During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the country was powerful, the people were prosperous, and the silk weaving industry was very well developed. People had more leisure time to dress up, and ironing had become an essential tool for arranging clothes for monarchs and the common people. The poet Wang Jian’s poem “Gong Diao (宫调)”, once describes the Tang Dynasty palace maids who stayed up all night ironing the emperor’s clothes. The maids ironed and smoothed the emperor’s clothes every night to ensure that the emperor was neatly dressed when he went to court the next day to discuss politics.
Zhang Xuan, a Tang Dynasty painter, painted Daolian Tu (捣练图), based on scenes of urban women Daolian (捣练, pounding cooked silk), Lixian (理线, sort out the thread), ironing, and sewing labor operations in the Tang Dynasty. We can also see the specific use of the iron in ancient times: the scroll has two women holding one end of the silk in each hand, another woman, left hand pressing the middle-end of the silk, right hand holding the iron, is ironing back and forth on the cloth.
The Song dynasty iron was more widely used than in the Sui and Tang dynasties, and its shape changed: it was generally hollow with a short handle, inserted into a wooden handle so that it would not burn hands when ironing. The containers for putting charcoal fires were also taller and deeper, and the shape was not entirely round. and the Song Dynasty iron was used not only for traditional ironing, but also for incense and paper ironing.
Incense: The Song dynasty invented the combination of the iron and incense in one vessel. While ironing the clothes, they also used incense to give clothes an aromatic smell. The Song dynasty imported a large number of spices from overseas every year, and the use of incense for ironing was one of the major consumption items.
Ironing paper: Some irons in the Song Dynasty also had the function of ironing books and flattening paper.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the iron followed the Song and Yuan dynasties modeling, but near the handle at the mouth of the edge raised higher upward to better prevent the embers from falling out, hollow short handle, inserted in the wooden handle. Some of the iron with decorations around, not only practical but also ornamental.
During the Republic of China period, the iron from the bowl into a triangular shape, closed type. At this time also appeared ceramic iron, alcohol iron, hot water iron, and so on, a very rich variety.
We all in the process of receiving a new Hanfu or wearing Hanfu, more or less will encounter the problem of pleated, this time the iron can play a great role in it. You can iron Hanfu after every cleaning and drying, so as to keep it dry and tidy for the next time you wear it.